Fluid dynamics for the win: SEE these stunning gravity waves
Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 8:52 AM - Twitter erupted with stunning visuals of interesting cloud formations over Alberta on Tuesday. Wondering what those clouds were exactly? A great and easy explanation with meteorologist Erin Wenckstern, below.
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Think of the cause by reliving a childhood pastime, Wenckstern says:
Throw a rock into water and watch the waves expand outward from the initial impact. What you are witnessing are gravity waves (not gravitational waves, which are ripples in the fabric of space-time, you astronomy buffs). When the rock displaces the fluid, buoyancy forces take over and tries to bring it back to equilibrium, leading to crests and troughs (or ups and downs) in the water.
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The clouds across Alberta on Tuesday resulted from the same phenomena...gravity waves! While it was a stunning display, it's not an uncommon phenomena.
WATCH BELOW: TUESDAY'S GRAVITY WAVE CLOUDS FROM VISIBLE SATELLITE
"The southwest upper-level wind flow over the Rockies caused the initial perturbation, leading to crests and ridges on the lee side of the Rockies in the stable atmosphere," explains Wenckstern. "On each crest, the upward wave motion would give enough of a push for the air to cool and condense, forming a cloud. But as the air would descend in the trough, it would warm and evaporate, creating a distinct clear slot."
So what you're visually seeing with every repeating cloud or clear slot is the oscillating gravity wave.
"Fluid dynamics for the win!," Wenckstern says.