Illustration of Langmuir circulation

1927 Langmuir circulation

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Irving Langmuir oceanography Illustration of Langmuir circulation

Langmuir circulation

Windrows of seaweed in the Sargasso Sea showed Irving Langmuir slow and shallow counter-rotating rolls of water that push together floating bands of debris and foam aligned with the wind.


Langmuir circulation occurs in an ocean’s mixed layer and does not penetrate the pycnocline, which lies from a few to hundreds of meters below the surface and in which temperatures drop and salinity increases, blocking the flow of oxygen to the waters below.


Lines of seaweed lines of magnetic force and lines of a poem are not like the lines we draw between the stars or from parents to child. Lines drawn over time over water by the wind appear and disappear. Like lines on our palms elements assemble with us as their canvas.

Langmuir circulating rolls of water are not always perfectly aligned with the direction of the wind. Langmuir circulation is caused by wind-driven drift from wave motions (Stokes drift). These create a circular motions that are pushed downwind by the drift’s shear.

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