Spiral Eddies

Southwest Indian Ocean

Southwest Indian Ocean

51 F-45-048
Flight 51F; 22.3S, 37.5E, 08:05:19 GMT, 3 Aug 1985

By the end of 1984, space oceanographers were convinced that spiral eddies were numerous in the oceans along boundaries of shears, whether the shears were caused by ocean currents, the shores of enclosed seas, or islands in currents. They had not reckoned with the enthusiasm of the astronauts, however, an enthusiasm that resulted in friendly competition to search for spiral eddies.
    Before long, photographs and observations were collected of spiral eddies in parts of the ocean where no appreciable currents were known and in locations thousands of kilometers from any land masses, even submerged. It became clear by the end of 1985 that spiral eddies are ubiquitous throughout the ocean. Where they are not observed, it seems to be merely a circumstance of poor viewing conditions, such as a windy or obscure sea surface. Furthermore, data from a few research cruises indicate that eddies are substantial features in the ocean, extending to depths as great as 300 meters. These spiraling, small eddies (less than 30 kilometers in diameter) represent a sizeable level of kinetic energy in the ocean's energy balance that has yet to be assessed.

Download 139.tiff high resolution TIFF file (9 MB)

Contents Spiral Eddies next: Equatorial Indian Ocean