Exploring Lake Phenomena: Langmuir Circulation

From time to time I like to highlight different lake phenomena, and today’s high winds and waves are a great opportunity to discuss Langmuir Circulation. The waves today are really stirring up the water, it’s brown and quite turbid and there are long lines of white froth on the water aligned with the wind direction. I’m sure you’ve seen this phenomena before. You can see those lines of froth in the webcam picture at left. Sitting here in my upstairs home office and looking out the window down at the lake, those lines of white froth are very evident.

Those lines of white froth are in fact the result of Langmuir Circulation, a phenomena first observed and described by physicist Irving Langmuir in 1927 during an ocean voyage through the Sargasso Sea. On that voyage he observed windrows of Sargasso seaweed and began to investigate what caused them. I’m not going to try and explain the phenomena here but will instead provide a few links to websites with excellent descriptions of Langmuir Circulation along with some great visual aids.

This page on SciencePrimer.com has about the easiest to understand explanation of Langmuir Circulation I’ve found:

You can also see the effect of Langmuir Circulation in this video I posted back on May 25th of this year: 25 May 2021: Rough Water on Clary Lake.

Here’s a very good YouTube video on the subject of Langmuir Circulation:

And now you know.

3 thoughts on “Exploring Lake Phenomena: Langmuir Circulation

  1. Paul

    Fascinating George! I’ve seen this phenomena before but didn’t know it had been studied and named.
    Langmuir was a curious chap!

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