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von Karman Vortices

von Karman Vortices

Each of these swirling clouds is the result of a meteorological phenomenon known as a von Karman vortex. These vortices appeared over Alexander Selkirk Island in the southern Pacific Ocean. Rising precipitously from the surrounding waters, the island’s highest point is nearly a mile (1.6 km) above sea level. As wind-driven clouds encounter this obstacle, they flow around it to form large, spinning eddies.

This image was acquired by Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor on September 15, 1999. This is a false-color composite image made using shortwave infrared, infrared, and near-infrared wavelengths.

Image provided by the USGS EROS Data Center Satellite Systems Branch.