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'Cloud streets': A mesmerizing atmospheric phenomenon
One of Mother Nature's many beautiful quirks
 

Cloud streets, April 2013. (Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC)

When cold air from snowy landscapes meets warmer air over open water, it can result in thin, parallel lines of spinning air. As these cylinders turn they evaporate and produce clouds, creating mesmerizing ripples in the sky — a phenomenon known as cloud streets.

The atmospheric art seen above emerged from the snow-covered expanses of Russia and Alaska and unfolded over the Bering Sea. They may look compact in photo form, but these stringy tubes stretched for hundreds of kilometers.

Occasionally, when the wind driving the cloud streets encounters an obstacle (likely from the land), those parallel lines can take on a paisley pattern, which is known as a "von Karman vortex street," named after the 19th-century Hungarian mathematician Theodore von Karman. The below image, acquired in 1999, shows the unique shapes forming off the Chilean coast, near the Juan Fernandez Islands.

(Bob Cahalan, NASA GSFC)

 
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