Seven waterspouts align as lava from the Hawaiian volcano Kilauea pours into the ocean in this striking photo from photographer Bruce Omori. Like many waterspouts–and their landbound cousins dust devils–these vortices are driven by variations in temperature and moisture content. Near the ocean surface, air and water vapor heated by the lava create a warm, moist layer beneath cooler, dry air. As the warm air rises, other air is drawn in by the low pressure left behind. Any residual vorticity in the incoming air gets magnified by conservation of angular momentum, like a spinning ice skater pulling her arms in. This creates the vortices, which are made visible by entrained steam and/or moisture condensing from the rising air. (Photo credit: B. Omori, via HPOTD; submitted by jshoer)

“Not all who wander are lost…some are just storm chasing.”

Today the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena is marveling at this extraordinary time-lapse video created by storm chaser and wedding photographer Mike Olbinski. After 18 days worth of storm chasing (20,000 miles of driving through 9 states and 7 tornadoes), Olbinski edited his footage down to 60,000 time-lapse frames to create this jaw-dropping 6-minute-video entitled Vorticity:

[via Sploid]

Reader unquietcode asks:

I saw this post recently and it made me wonder what’s going on. If you look in the upper right of the frame as the camera submerges, you can see a little vortex of water whirring about. Even with the awesome power of the wave rolling forward a little tornado of water seems able to stably form. Any idea what causes this phenomenon?

This awesome clip was taken from John John Florence’s “& Again” surf video. What you’re seeing is the vortex motion of a plunging breaking wave. As ocean waves approach the shore, the water depth decreases, which amplifies the wave’s height. When the wave reaches a critical height, it breaks and begins to lose its energy to turbulence. There are multiple kinds of breaking waves, but plungers are the classic surfer’s wave. These waves become steep enough that the top of the wave  overturns and plunges into the water ahead of the wave. This generates the vortex-like tube you see in the animation. Such waves can produce complicated three-dimensional vortex structures like those seen in this video by Clark Little. Any initial variation in the main vortex gets stretched as the wave rolls on, and this spins up and strengthens the rib vortices seen wrapped around the primary vortex. (Source video: B. Kueny and J. Florence)

O misterioso vórtice atmosférico no polo norte de Saturno em uma composição de imagens no infravermelho obtidas pela Cassini.
The misterious atmospheric vortex in the Saturn’s north pole in a composition of infrared images obtained by Cassini.
Credit: NASA/Alexis Tranchandon/Solaris
#nasa #caltech #jpl #vortex #vortice #infrared #infravermelho #cassini #planet #planeta #misterious #misterioso #clouds #nuvens #saturno #saturn #astrogram #observatoriog1 #northpole #polonorte #space #espaço #astronomia #astronomy

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New FYFD video! Learn all about salps, vortex rings, and underwater robots. Thanasi Athanassiadis takes me inside his lab and his newly published research into how proximity affects the thrust two vortex rings can produce. 

There are a ton of little things I love about how this video came out, especially the chalkboard animations. Check it the full video below and click through to the video description for lots more information about salps and vortex rings.

(Image and video credits: N. Sharp and A. Athanassiadis; Original salp images: A. Migotto and D. Altherr)

Dust devils, like fire tornadoes and waterspouts, form from warm, rising air. As the sun heats the ground to temperatures hotter than the surrounding atmosphere, hot air will begin to rise. When it rises, that air leaves behind a region of lower pressure that draws in nearby air. Any vorticity in that air gets intensified as it gets pulled toward the low pressure area. It will start to spin faster, exactly like a spinning ice skater who pulls in his arms. The result is a spinning vortex of air driven by buoyant convection. On Earth, dust devils are typically no more than a few meters in size and can only pick up light objects like leaves or hay. On Mars, dust devils can be hundreds of meters tall, and, though they’re too weak to do much damage, they have helpfully cleaned off the solar panels of some of our rovers! (Image credit: T. Bargman, source; via Gizmodo)

everyonelikespotatissallad asks:

so, how is lift actually generated? i’ve been going through Anderson’s Introduction to Flight (6th Ed.) and while it offers the derivation of various equations very thoroughly, it barely touches on why lift is generated, or how camber contributes to the increase of C(L) 

This is a really good question to ask. There are a lot of different explanations for lift out there (and some of the common ones are incorrect). The main thing to know is that a difference in pressure across the wing–low pressure over the top and higher pressure below–creates the net upward force we call lift. It’s when you ask why there’s a pressure difference across the wing that explanations tend to start diverging. To be clear, aerodynamicists don’t disagree about what produces lift - we just tend to argue about which physical explanation (as opposed to just doing the math) makes the most sense. So here are a couple of options:

Newton’s 3rd Law

Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you look at flow over an airfoil, air approaching the airfoil is angled upward, and the air leaving the aifoil is angled downward. In order to change the direction of the air’s flow, the airfoil must have exerted a downward force on the air. By Newton’s third law, this means the air also exerted an upward force–lift–on the airfoil. 

The downward force a wing exerts on the air becomes especially obvious when you actually watch the air after a plane passes:


This one can be harder to understand. Circulation is a quantity related to vorticity, and it has to do with how the direction of velocity changes around a closed curve. Circulation creates lift (which I discuss in some more detail here.) How does an airfoil create circulation, though? When an airfoil starts at rest, there is no vorticity and no circulation. As you see in the video above, as soon as the airfoil moves, it generates a starting vortex. In order for the total circulation to remain zero, this means that the airfoil must carry with it a second, oppositely rotating vortex. For an airfoil moving right to left, that carried vortex will spin clockwise, imparting a larger velocity to air flowing over the top of the wing and slowing down the air that moves under the wing. From Bernoulli’s principle, we know that faster moving air has a lower pressure, so this explains why the air pressure is lower over the top of the wing.

Asymmetric Flow and Bernoulli’s Principle

There are two basic types of airfoils - symmetric ones (like the one in the first picture above) and asymmetric, or cambered, airfoils (like the one in the image immediately above this). Symmetric airfoils only generate lift when at an angle of attack. Otherwise, the flow around them is symmetric and there’s no pressure difference and no lift. Cambered airfoils, by virtue of their asymmetry, can generate lift at zero angle of attack. Their variations in curvature cause air flowing around them to experience different forces, which in turn causes differing pressures along the top and the bottom of the airfoil surface. A fluid particle that travels over the upper surface encounters a large radius of curvature, which strongly accelerates the fluid and creates fast, low-pressure flow. Air moving across the bottom surface experiences a lesser curvature, does not accelerate as much, and, therefore, remains slower and at a higher pressure compared to the upper surface.

(Image credit: M. Belisle/Wikimedia; National Geographic/BBC2; O. Cleynen/Wikimedia; video credit: J. Capecelatro et al.)

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Everyone remembers playing with soap bubbles as a child, but most of us probably never became as adept with them as magician Denis Lock. In this video, Lock shows off some of the clever things one can do with surface tension and thin films. My favorite demo starts at 1:25, when he constructs a spinning vortex inside a bubble. He starts with one big bubble and adds a smaller, smoke-filled one beneath it. Then, using a straw, he blows off-center into the large bubble. This sets up some vorticity inside the bubble. When he breaks the film between the two bubbles, the smoke mixes into the already-swirling air in the larger bubble. Then he pokes a hole in the top of the bubble. Air starts rushing out the deflating bubble. As the air flows toward the center of the bubble, it spins faster because of the conservation of angular momentum and a miniature vortex takes shape.  (Video credit: D. Lock/Tonight at the London Palladium/ via J. Hertzberg)


Sometimes it takes timelapse photography to truly appreciate the dynamic behavior of our atmosphere. In “The Chase” Mike Olbinski, whose work we’ve featured previously, has captured some of the most incredible and stunning weather timelapse footage I have ever seen. Despite watching it repeatedly, I continue to be awed to the point that I have no words. Seriously, just watch it. Be amazed by the drama of our sky. (Video credit: M. Olbinski)