Pirates Made Ocean Vortex ‘The Great Whirl’ Inaccessible. So Scientists Studied It from Space.

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An enormous ocean whirlpool the size of Colorado appears every spring off the coast of Somalia, and it’s so big, scientists can see it from space.

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Known as the Great Whirl, this churning, clockwise vortex was first described in 1866 by British geographer Alexander Findley, in a book about navigating the Indian Ocean. Findley said that its whirling created “a very heavy confused sea,” and recommended that sailors avoid its powerful currents when approaching the African coast. [Earth’from’Above: 101 Stunning’Images’from Orbit]

Publisher: Live Science
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Tracking A Giant Ocean Vortex From Space

Researchers have found a new way to use satellites to monitor the Great Whirl, a massive whirlpool the size of Colorado that forms each year off the coast of East Africa, they report in a new study.

Using 23 years of satellite data, the new findings show the Great Whirl is larger and longer-lived than scientists previously thought. At its peak, the giant whirlpool is, on average, 275,000 square kilometers (106,000 square miles) in area and persists for about 200 days out of the year.

More than being just a curiosity, the Great Whirl is closely connected to the monsoon that drives the rainy season in India. Monsoon rains fuel India’s $2 trillion agricultural economy, but how much rain falls each year is notoriously difficult to forecast. If researchers can use their new method to discern a pattern in the Great Whirl’s formation, they might be able to better predict when India will have a very dry or very wet season compared to the average.

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