GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Have you ever been outside and saw a tiny swirl of air blow around some leaves almost like a cyclone? That’s just one small example of what scientists call an eddy.
Eddies can be seen along mountainsides, coastlines, within oceans and sometimes even in swimming pools. They are often described through fluid dynamics, which focuses on the circular motion of fluids such as air, water and smoke.
Eddy formation has a lot to do with temperature and wind. For example, during the day the air directly above the surface is heated. Once air is heated, it begins to rise. This circulation of air creates invisible eddies in our atmosphere.
Now, winds on the other hand determine how large eddies are. With calm winds, eddies remain relatively small. As the wind picks up, eddies begin to grow in height.
Eddies found in water often spawn off of ocean currents. This swirling motion of water helps in transporting heat to different areas in the ocean. They also do a really good job at transporting nutrients found in the depths of the ocean closer to the surface. Occasionally, really large ocean eddies are named just like hurricanes.
Want to see this process for yourself? Next time you are swimming in a pool, take a glass plate and glide it in a straight motion, pushing the water away from you. Two separate eddies will be created on both edges of the plate.