Studying gravity waves in electric blue clouds Today’s Video of the Day from NASA Goddard features striking images of electric blue polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs).
These clouds, which only form above Earth’s polar regions, are composed of ice crystals that appear bright blue or white when they are struck by sunlight.
NASA launched a balloon mission that was developed to help scientists gain a better understanding of the complex process of turbulence.
The gravity waves that cause turbulence are usually invisible, but can be seen as they move through PMCs. Although normally invisible, atmospheric gravity waves can be seen moving through a thin group of electric blue clouds that form over the poles in summer, known as polar mesospheric clouds. Gravity waves are an important part of atmospheric dynamics. “They help to drive the overall circulation of the atmosphere, but some gravity waves are too small and too frequent to be observed with satellites,” said the study’s lead author, Erik Lindgren, who worked on the research as a postdoctoral scholar in Sheshadri’s lab.
Although lesser known than gravitational waves – undulations in the fabric of space-time – atmospheric gravity waves are ubiquitous and powerful, said Stanford University atmospheric scientist Aditi Sheshadri, senior author of a new study detailing changes in high-frequency gravity waves across seasons and latitudes. Studying gravity waves in electric blue clouds as shown above in video shows the turbulence.
Video Credit: NASA Goddard