Theodore von Kármán, a Hungarian-American physicist, was the first to describe the physical processes that create long chains of spiral eddies like the ones shown here. Known as von Kármán vortices, the patterns can form nearly anywhere that fluid flow is disturbed by an object. In this case, the unique flow occurs as winds rush past the tall peaks on the volcanic islands in the Canary Islands. As winds are diverted around these high areas, the disturbance in the flow propagates downstream in the form of vortices that alternate their direction of rotation.

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