Three-dimensional structure of an oceanic mesoscale eddy and the fluid it trapped. (Credit: Sergey Kryazhimskiy)
University of Hawaii researchers examined nearly two decades of satellite data and found that massive oceanic whirlpools are driving weather patterns, NewScientist reported.
Known as mesoscale eddies, the spinning vortexes of water range from 100 to 500 kilometers in diameter, and are shaped by islands and other aquatic obstacles. The eddies can swirl for months at a time, moving warm water around the oceans until they slow and finally stop.
While the researchers don’t know exactly how the eddies are shaping the global climate, their similarity to other phenomena such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation suggest they could influence wind and ocean currents and drive extreme weather.
Image: Three-dimensional structure of an oceanic mesoscale eddy and the fluid it trapped. (Credit: Sergey Kryazhimskiy)