Next time you take a bath, ponder this: Scientists believe soap bubbles are capable of predicting “the intensity of deadly hurricanes and typhoons.” According to physicists from the University of Bordeaux, the rotation on the vortices of bubbles (i.e. the fluid that spins on the bubble’s membrane) “acts the same way as huge weather systems”.
Scientists believe the relationship between the spinning fluid of a bubble allows them to create a model that can predict the path and strength of hurricanes and typhoons:
Predicting wind intensity or strength in tropical cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes is a key objective in meteorology…However, despite recent progress, such forecasts remain difficult since they involve many factors related to the complexity of these giant vortices and their interaction with the environment. The researchers carried out simulations of flow on soap bubbles, reproducing the curvature of the atmosphere and approximating as closely as possible a simple model of atmospheric flow.
They found that rotating soap bubbles could accurately recreate vortices that resemble tropical cyclones and whose rotation rate and intensity are similar to early weather patterns. They discovered that vorticies intensify to a maximum peak before before entering a phase of decline, just like tropical storms. A detailed study of the rotation rate of the vortices enabled the researchers to obtain a simple model that accurately describes their evolution. The model can be used to determine the maximum intensity of the vortex and the time it takes to reach it, on the basis of its initial evolution.
The team of scientists applied their findings to real tropical cyclones and analysed 150 tropical cyclones in the Pacific and Atlantic. Their findings proved that the relationship “held true for such low-pressure systems.”