Von Kármán Vortices, Southern Pacific Ocean
Swirling clouds line up in a formation known as a von Kármán street. This phenomenon is named after aerodynamicist Theodore von Kármán, who derived the theoretical conditions under which it occurs (von Kármán was one of the principal founders of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory). He described the alternating double row of vortices as “staggered like lampposts along both sides of
a street.” These vortices appear when wind-driven clouds encounter an obstacle, in this instance Alexander Selkirk Island in the southern Pacific Ocean. As the clouds flow around the rugged island, whose highest point reaches nearly 1.5 kilometers above sea level, the clouds form the spinning eddies visible in this 1999 Landsat 7 image.