Wave clouds over southwestern Iceland • Earth.com

Wave clouds over southwestern Iceland Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features “wave clouds” over southwestern Iceland on April 30, 2021.

According to NASA, wave clouds are a visible component of waves in the atmosphere, which form for a variety of reasons. These clouds often develop when an air mass is forced over an obstacle like a mountain ridge, an island, or a volcano. 

The clouds in this particular image may be related to the ongoing eruption of Fagradalsfjall, a shield volcano on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula. If so, the wave clouds were formed by the collision of different air masses. Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 356,991 and an area of 103,000 km (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. 

“The difference in density between air heated by the volcano – even if not explosive – and the surrounding environment is very likely responsible for creating turbulence through Kelvin waves that propagate downwind,” said Jean-Paul Varnier, a NASA atmospheric scientist.

The Fagradalsfjall eruption began in late March 2021, and activity intensified in April and May. 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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