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Updated: 12/21/2017 08:30:01AM

Wind streaks explained

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By Betty Staugler

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Have you ever wondered what those foamy streaks of scum on the Harbor are? Have you ever wondered why the bubbles seem to align themselves in streaks and not just cover the surface on windy days? Those streaks or scum lines are due to a rather complex water movement phenomenon called Langmuir circulation. We experience it only when a specific blend of wind speed and wave movement occurs.

Langmuir circulation was discovered back in 1938 by chemist and physicist Irving Langmuir during a cross-Atlantic voyage. Langmuir noticed the sargassum (floating seaweed) forming linear patterns on the water’s surface during his journey. Upon returning home, Langmuir conducted experiments in Lake George, New York, in order to explain the sargassum formations.

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