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Gravity Waves Ripple over Marine Stratocumulus Clouds
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
In this natural-color image from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), a fingerprint-like gravity wave feature occurs over a deck of marine stratocumulus clouds. Similar to the ripples that occur when a pebble is thrown into a still pond, such “gravity waves” sometimes appear when the relatively stable and stratified air masses associated with stratocumulus cloud layers are disturbed by a vertical trigger from the underlying terrain, or by a thunderstorm updraft or some other vertical wind shear. The stratocumulus cellular clouds that underlie the wave feature are associated with sinking air that is strongly cooled at the level of the cloud-tops—such clouds are common over mid-latitude oceans when the air is unperturbed by cyclonic or frontal activity. This image is centered over the Indian Ocean (at about 38.9° South, 80.6° East), and was acquired on October 29, 2003.
The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer observes the daylit Earth continuously and every 9 days views the entire globe between 82° north and 82° south latitude. The MISR Browse Image Viewer provides access to
low-resolution true-color versions of these images. These data products were generated from a portion of the imagery acquired during Terra orbit 20545. The image covers an area of 245 kilometers x 378 kilometers, and uses data from blocks 121 to 122 within World Reference System-2 path 134.
Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team. Text by Clare Averill (Raytheon/JPL).