Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wild Wacky Winds

The other day I was walking a path I often walk, when I noticed something.  The wind in a corner of the outside of the engineering building was really whipping around.  Then I actually looked.  I have been walking past this point for more than five years and this is the first time I really looked.  It is amazing how much you don't see if it is around you all the time.  Let me show you what I mean...

You can see a mostly circular patch of earth, with a mound in the center.  This location is home to an almost permanent whirlwind.  Walking past there are almost always leaves being whipped around in the circle.I wont bore you excessively as to why I think this exists, but I feel I should give a brief explanation.  When a fluid passes by, or around an edge such as this one it wants to follow the path that expends the least energy.  The flow does not want to make a 90 degree turn, so it just breaks away from the wall.  The sheer stress on the air inside that pocket causes the air to spin forming an eddy. This particular eddy is a rather strong one and this is due to a ton of factors, precise geometry, predominant wind directions, vegetation and any number of other things.

Here is is up close.  You can really see the power of wind erosion in this image. Incredible to think that I just really noticed and looked at this for the first time recently.

If you happen to be passing by one day take a look for yourself.  It is located inside the red circle.  The red circle is located in front of the Rutgers Engineering Building between the B-wing and the A-wing.


  1. wow that pile of dirt is amazing! I guess the wind speed is 0 in the center so the dirt falls to the ground there.

  2. There's a similar place around Belfer Hall at YU, but it's paved. It's usually leaves blowing around, but when there's light snow it also has a similar effect to the dirt you see.

    You should try (well, not really) adding a combustible gas to the mix, to get a cool flaming tube of fire!