Robert Sasse Best of the Web: von Kármán Vortices

Robert Sasse Best of the Web: von Kármán Vortices

The video above shows an example of von Kármán vortices occurring in nature. This video was produced using images from NOAA satellites. There is a region of wake that is generate down stream of the islands where these vortices occur and the clouds enable us to visualize this flow. This phenomenon can be observed on a variety of scales. For example flow around a cylinder that beginning to transition from laminar to turbulent flow will also behave like this.

I think this really shows the power of non-dimensional analysis and the ability to scale down fluid flow events to reasonable sizes. Here the Reynolds number is one of the non-dimensional values of interest. It gives the ratio of inertial effects to viscous effects and can be used to help determine whether or not flow is turbulent. So the Reynolds numbers for flow around a small cylinder or around a large island can be in the same range. Consequently, the flow behavior observed can be similar.

This video was published on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/von-karman-vortices

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