Wired has a gallery of crazy-ass cloud formations seen from space, and the moral is basically “atmospheric science is awesome.” The Von Kármán vortex street, seen above, is so cool that this guy got a tattoo of it.
Here’s another one. Von Kármán streets occur in all sorts of circumstances, not just clouds — they can happen any time a fluid flow is broken by an object (like an island) that causes the flow to shed little vortices in its wake.
One more for good measure. This one combines a Von Kármán street with other cloud streets (that’s what those ribbed lines are called):
And here are more cloud streets. Those lines are actually cylinders of cloud, caused by the interaction of rising warm air and sinking cool air — like rolling a tube of Play-Doh between your hands.
Finally, gravity waves, which are also induced by air rising from below, because of weather patterns or geographical features. (The “gravity” part comes in because cold air is heavier and warm air is lighter.)
Wired has way more pictures, but fair warning: Looking at them might make you want to be a cloudologist. Cloudology is a thing, right? Because I’m applying to Ph.D. programs right now.
Get Grist in your inbox