Von Karman vortices captured via satellite on Feb. 25, 2016, south of Jeju Island. (NASA)

Winds blowing over South Korea’s Jeju island Thursday gave rise to a chain of magnificent swirling clouds known as von Karman vortex streets.

Satellite images show beautiful whirlpool-shaped cloud formations downwind of the island in the East China Sea. The swirls are lined up one after another comprising the so-called “street” in the sky.

“[W]hen fluids encounter obstacles, they can form spiral eddies,” wrote NASA, in an explanation as to how these vortices form.

The obstacle in this case is the volcanic high terrain on Jeju Island which the air flows around, leaving behind an area of low pressure downwind on the island’s opposite side, where the air begins spinning counterclockwise forming a vortex. As one vortex forms and moves off to the south, another follows in its wake forming the vortex street.

Here are some more images and animations:


Von Karman vortices captured via satellite on Feb. 25, 2016, south of Jeju Island. (CIRA/Colorado State)


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