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Cloud Vortices off Jan Mayen Island
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Cloud Vortices off Jan Mayen Island

March 2, 2009
The clouds over the Greenland Sea form swirls and eddies off of Norway's Jan Mayen Island. Turbulence, caused by the wind passing over the highest point of the island, is producing the pronounced eddies that swirl the clouds into a pattern called a vortex "street".

In this image, the clouds have aligned in parallel rows or streets making the swirling pattern of the vortices stand out. Cloud streets form when low-level winds moving between and over obstacles cause the clouds to line up into rows (much like streets) that match the direction of the winds. At the point where the clouds first form streets, they're very narrow and well-defined. But as they age, they lose their definition, and begin to spread out and rejoin each other into a larger cloud mass.

The ice-capped Jan Mayen Island lies within the Arctic Circle a few hundred miles east of Greenland. The MODIS on the Aqua satellite captured this image on February 24, 2009.