Strong, steady trade winds blow past Portugal and off the coast of northwestern Africa. As these winds rush past the tall peaks of the Canary Islands, their flow is dramatically disrupted, causing a predictable pattern of swirls and eddies to form on the leeward side of each island. The patterns are called Von Karman vortices, after Theodore von Karman, co-founder of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who first described the phenomenon. Although the patterns appear to be somewhat random, the flow of air around the obstruction follows laws of fluid dynamics, and the patterns formed can be predicted by mathematical formulations.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on May 20, 2015.
Date Acquired: 5/20/2015
Resolutions: 1km (683.3 KB), 500m (2.3 MB), 250m (5.4 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC