These Gorgeous Fiery Clouds Show Off the Wonders of Fluid Dynamics

By Maddie Stone on at

They look like the wrath of Hades and Poseidon combined, but these beautiful, fiery clouds, captured by Breckenridge Resort in Colorado, have a simple physical explanation, and it’s rooted in fluid dynamics.

The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability creates one of the most ubiquitous patterns in nature—a series of breaking ocean waves that curl over themselves again and again. It starts with a velocity difference between two fluid layers, which causes unequal shear at their interface. This instability results in turbulent flow, which manifests as a series of overturning whorls. The resultant pattern, which can be seen in Saturn’s bands, Jupiter’s red spot, and the surface of the Sun, is often stunning.

Image Credit: Breckenridge Resort ‏via Twitter