Spiral Eddies

In-line spirals
Eastern Mediterranean

In-line spirals, eastern Mediterranean

Flight 41G; 33.5N, 28.5E, 12:02:43 GMT, 6 Oct 1984

Flight 41G provided the opportunity to expend greater effort on viewing spiral eddies than had been possible before. With an oceanographer on the crew and a well-coordinated plan involving the other crew members, it was hoped that the details and distribution of the spirals could be established. Scientists were not disappointed.
    Throughout the mission, the entire Mediterranean Sea was covered by one complex eddy field after another. During an orbit early in the flight, the Challenger crew observed first a scattered collection of eddies off Libya. Then, just seconds later, a set of four spirals in a line along what appeared to be a shear seemed to confirm that the counterclockwise eddies were spinning off a strong current shear in the ocean. The orbits were not repetitive enough to determine the life histories of the eddies, but their occurrence in the confined Mediterranean Sea was good evidence that shears along currents, or coastal boundaries, generated the spirals.

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