Last update: September 18th, 2019 at 6:00 pm
A complex cloud pattern illustrated unsettled wind in the central Atlantic Ocean in late April 2016. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of wave clouds in the central Atlantic on April 27.
The rippling wave clouds pattern appears similar to the pattern of waves along a seashore. The atmosphere behaves like a fluid, so when flowing air encounters an obstacle, it disrupts the flow. In this case, the turbulence causes the air to flow upwards, then downwards, creating a wave. Once a wave begins, it can continue over long distances. When the air crested a wave, the air cooled and clouds formed. As the air sank into the trough, the air warmed, and no clouds were formed. The clouds appear at the peak of every wave.