According to researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Miami, some of the largest ocean eddies on Earth are mathematically equivalent to the mysterious black holes of space.
These eddies are so tightly shielded by circular water paths that nothing caught up in them escapes.
The mild winters experienced in Northern Europe are thanks to the Gulf Stream, which makes up part of those ocean currents spanning the globe that impact on the climate. However, our climate is also influenced by huge eddies of over 150 kilometres in diameter that rotate and drift across the ocean. Their number is reportedly on the rise in the Southern Ocean, increasing the northward transport of warm and salty water. Intriguingly, this could moderate the negative impact of melting sea ice in a warming climate.
However, scientists have been unable to quantify this impact so far, because the exact boundaries of these swirling water bodies have remained undetectable. George Haller, Professor of Nonlinear Dynamics at ETH Zurich, and Francisco Beron-Vera, Research Professor of Oceanography at the University of Miami, have now come up with a solution to this problem. In a paper just published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, they develop a new mathematical technique to find water-transporting eddies with coherent boundaries.
The challenge in finding such eddies is to pinpoint coherent water islands in a turbulent ocean. The rotating and drifting fluid motion appears chaotic to the observer both inside and outside an eddy. Haller and Beron-Vera were able to restore order in this chaos by isolating coherent water islands from a sequence of satellite observations. To their surprise, such coherent eddies turned out to be mathematically equivalent to black holes.
No escape from the vortex
Black holes are objects in space with a mass so great that they attract everything that comes within a certain distance of them. Nothing that comes too close can escape, not even light. But at a critical distance, a light beam no longer spirals into the black hole. Rather, it dramatically bends and comes back to its original position, forming a circular orbit. A barrier surface formed by closed light orbits is called a photon sphere in Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Haller and Beron-Vera discovered similar closed barriers around select ocean eddies. In these barriers, fluid particles move around in closed loops – similar to the path of light in a photon sphere. And as in a black hole, nothing can escape from the inside of these loops, not even water.
It is precisely these barriers that help to identify coherent ocean eddies in the vast amount of observational data available. According to Haller, the very fact that such coherent water orbits exist amidst complex ocean currents is surprising.
Eddies as water taxis
Because black-hole-type ocean eddies are stable, they function in the same way as a transportation vehicle – not only for micro-organisms such as plankton or foreign bodies like plastic waste or oil, but also for water with a heat and salt content that can differ from the surrounding water. Haller and Beron-Vera have verified this observation for the Agulhas Rings, a group of ocean eddies that emerge regularly in the Southern Ocean off the southern tip of Africa and transport warm, salty water northwest. The researchers identified seven Agulhas Rings of the black-hole type, which transported the same body of water without leaking for almost a year.
The Latest on: Ocean eddies
- Obituary: Nick Fitzpatrickon October 20, 2019 at 1:58 am
He also enjoyed swimming, fishing and canoeing on the rivers and ocean. In the last summer of his life ... Nick was predeceased by his father, Eddie, and is survived by his mother, June, her sister, ...
- A tiger at his bed, malaria and parasites - the incredible story of a prisoner of waron October 19, 2019 at 8:58 am
It began in 1939 when Mr Hunn, who worked for the territorial army, was enlisted and sent thousands of miles across the North Atlantic Ocean to Cape Town on a boat with 5,000 other soldiers. Eddie and ...
- Eddie and the ARU: The obvious solution to a Sticky situationon October 17, 2019 at 10:45 pm
Another Eddie Jones thing to do is to then turn around and deny that he’s doing it ... Perhaps a Jones return can be sold as the scenario that starts all those Magnificent Seven/Ocean’s Eleven movies.
- Art in the Storefront artist announced for holiday seasonon October 14, 2019 at 8:05 am
Ambler native Eddie Flotte will be the featured artist this holiday season at Art in the Storefront ... Flotte is predominantly a plein air artist, well known for his work on Maui, at Grassy Sound and ...
- Shore Conference Weekend Blitz: Tales of the undefeated, clinching titles, Week 5 upsetson October 13, 2019 at 8:31 am
Veteran head coach Don Klein called Pena the most versatile player he has ever coached. Pena is reminiscent of former Ocean Township star Eddie Conti who had the ability to score from any place on the ...
- Stream This: Netflix makes a big October movie push with Eddie Murphy, Soderbergh and 'Breaking Bad'on October 3, 2019 at 11:15 am
could signal the comeback of Eddie Murphy. In this comedic biopic from director Craig Brewer ... The Pieces I Am," available Oct. 17 On Netflix: "Ocean's Twelve," "Ocean's Thirteen," "Scream 2," "In ...
- Mesoscale Ocean Eddies in the North Pacific: Westward Propagationon August 21, 2019 at 6:51 am
Mesoscale eddies have been discovered in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic Ocean. Their existence in the Pacific Ocean is now confirmed.
- Blue sharks use ocean eddies as fast-tracks to foodon August 11, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Blue sharks use large, swirling ocean currents known as eddies to fast-track their way to food in the twilight zone -- a layer of the sea between 200 and 1,000 meters deep, according to new research ...
- Blue sharks use eddies for fast track to foodon August 7, 2019 at 8:47 am
Blue sharks use large, swirling ocean currents, known as eddies, to fast-track their way down to feed in the ocean twilight zone. Blue sharks use large, swirling ocean currents, known as eddies, to ...
- Blue sharks use eddies for fast track to foodon August 7, 2019 at 7:49 am
Blue sharks use large, swirling ocean currents, known as eddies, to fast-track their way down to feed in the ocean twilight zone--a layer of the ocean between 200 and 1000 meters deep containing the ...
via Google News and Bing News