Scientists Observed the Great Whirl from Space

Scientists Observed the Great Whirl from Space

Researchers have made some amazing revelations about the Great Whirl by tracking this humongous whirlpool through satellites.

Scientists have been trying to study the Great Whirl for many years but most of their efforts have gone in vain as they haven’t been able to find any substantial information about the whirl. A quite obvious difficulty for the researchers is the size of this whirl. It is so big that it becomes incredibly hard to determine its boundaries. Consequently, you cannot understand the yearly variations of the whirlpool and the pattern of its formation. Another factor that adds to the difficulties is the widespread piracy of the East African coast that prevents the researchers from placing instruments in the ocean. These instruments are vital in obtaining useful information about the Great Whirl because monitoring of a whirlpool requires repeated observations over a long period of time.

The Great Whirl

This massive whirlpool is originated every year off the coast of Somalia when the winds of the Indian Ocean change their direction (from west to east). It begins to form in April and its currents become the strongest and deepest by June. They maintain their ferocity until September, which marks the end of the Indian monsoon season, but the inertia keeps them going for a few months as they disappear late in the fall. The currents of the Great Whirl extend hundreds of meters into the depths of the sea. In some regions, they can even cross the one-kilometer barrier.

Use of Satellites

Recently, researchers have shifted their attention towards the use of satellites for monitoring this huge whirl. The involvement of technology did provide the scientists with some useful results as they found that the whirl can grow up to 500 kilometers at its peak. Bryce Melzer, a Satellite Oceanographer at Stennis Space Center, led a team of researchers that has developed a new method to define the boundaries of the Great Whirl and observe it over time.

The team used 23 years (1993-2015) of sea level satellite data to understand the variations in the whirlpool from year to year. Similarly, they found that the Great Whirl lasts for a period of 198 days (on average). This finding rectifies the previous estimates of 140 and 166 days. Having said that, the whirlpool can persist into November, December, and even New Year as it did in 1997 when it lasted for 256 days.

The most important information that was deduced from this research was about the size of this whirl. The analysis of the satellite data revealed that the average size of the whirl was about 275,000 square kilometers during these years. This makes it larger than the entire state of Colorado.

Connection with the Monsoon

The Great Whirl is also associated with the rainy season (monsoon) in India but predicting the amount of annual rainfall is quite difficult to forecast. Given the importance of these rainfalls to the agricultural economy of India, the whirlpool is extremely significant to the country. The researching team is now trying to figure out a technique which might help them in predicting the quantity of rainfall that India will receive each year on the basis of the Great Whirl’s formation. Melzer referred to this connection by saying,

“If we’re about to connect these two, we might have an advantage in predicting the strength of the monsoon, which has huge socio-economic impacts.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *