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Wave Clouds from South Sandwich Islands

Published by Matt on Wed Nov 25, 2009 11:17 am via: source
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As they cross the ocean, ships make waves in the water. Even though they sit still, islands can make equally dramatic waves—in the air. This was the case in the southern Atlantic Ocean in late November 2009. The South Sandwich Islands conspired with air currents to make wave patterns in clouds.

Wave Clouds from South Sandwich Islands. Credit: NASA

Wave Clouds from South Sandwich Islands. Credit: NASA

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color (photo-like) image on November 23, 2009. Saunders, Montagu, and Bristol Islands, part of the South Sandwich chain, all trigger V-shaped waves that fan out toward the east. The white clouds over the dark ocean water vaguely resemble zebra stripes.

The South Sandwich Islands are of volcanic origin—Bristol and Montagu have been active during recorded history—and all the islands poke rugged summits above the ocean surface. The islands disturb the smooth flow of air, creating waves that ripple through the atmosphere downwind of the obstacles.

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