Category: fog

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On occasion in the late fall and early winter, the Grand Canyon can fill with clouds of fog. This occurs when a layer of warm air traps cold, moist air inside the canyon, creating what’s known as a temperature inversion. The trapped air’s moisture condenses into fog, creating the appearance of a cloud sea lapping at the canyon walls. Such inversions often proceed a big snowstorm, as shown in this video. (Video and image credit: H. Mehmedinovic / SKYGLOWPROJECT; via Gizmodo)

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One of the most amazing things about fluid dynamics, in my opinion, is that the same rules apply across an incredible array of situations. The equations of motion are the same whether your fluid is water, air, or honey. Your flier can be a Cessna airplane or a fruit fly; again, the equations are the same. This is part of the reason that patterns in flows are repeated whether in the laboratory or out in nature – and it’s the reason why a timelapse of fog clouds can look just like ocean waves. Ultimately, the physics is the same; clouds just move slower than ocean waves! (Image credit: L. Leber, source; via James H.)

Fog snakes its way from the ocean into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in this animation constructed from satellite imagery. The strait lies between Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest. Fogs like this form when skies are clearer and heat from the surface is able to escape upward. The surface air then cools and condenses into fog. Steady winds pushed fog into the strait over the course of about 9 hours. There’s a remarkable level of detail in the satellite images, taken by the new GOES-16 satellite that launched in late 2016. Notice the ragged wave front as the fog stretches eastward and the shock-wave-like lines behind it in the strait. Both result from interactions between the fog cloud and the shape of the land masses it’s encountered. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)