High pressure air under the wing. Low pressure air above the wing. The air leaks around the wingtip from high to low pressure area. At the same time air is flowing from leading edge (front) to trailing edge (rear). The interaction of these 2 flows causes air to corkscrew around and off the wingtip. The vortex created has low pressure at the centre. If the air has water vapour present, it will become visible if it condenses (i.e. goes from vapour (gas) state to liquid state). There are 2 ways to cause condensation - you can either keep the pressure constant and reduce the temperature or you can keep the temperature constant and reduce the pressure. The latter is what happens in the vortex. If the air was 100% dry - i.e. a relative humidity of 0% - i.e. no water vapour, you would never see those vortices.
The first "streaks" you see are from the winglets on the wingtips and then the last ones (and much bigger, more powerful and more hazardous ones!) are due to the wings themselves.
If you could find a way to eliminate or reduce those vortices you would reduce or eliminate the induced drag of the wing.
Does that help at all?
I am presuming you are an airline pilot haha (best guess).... I am truly amazed at the physics of it all. Is there any website/book/media where it describes all of these events that happen to an aircraft do you know? I would love to find out all about it as I have a keen interest in aviation and I want to know how everything works (yes i am one of those guys)
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