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Gravity Wave Caught On Camera

By Michelle Duffy     May 7, 2007 in Environment
A beautiful sunset captured on a webcam yesterday in Iowa presented something more quite spectacular in the dusk skies
It is called a gravity wave, ever heard of one? Well, I certainly haven't in the UK, then again, we are not famous for having extraordinary weather so to see this peculiar motion of the atmosphere is quite something for a Brit.
Caught on camera yesterday from the Tama, Iowa KCCI-TV webcam, it is what can only be described as a ripple through the sky. In the truest form of a wave created across water, the motion is made by the Earth's atmosphere.
It is however, a vertical wave, although it doesn't look it. It is created by a 'trigger mechanism' which causes the air to move, or at least, be 'displaced.' It is a common thing and can usually be triggered off by the disruption of a mountain or the updraft of a thunderstorm. It is, in short, air rising up though stable air. The cold air forcibly rising, hits the stable air and doesn't find a way through it or around it. The stable atmosphere tries to push the air back down to the ground. It retaliates and forces itself back up towards the stable air and so the pattern continues creating a wave effect.
It's all to do with gravity, and the pushing and pulling of air towards and against it. Cold air meeting stable air and the two reacting against each other....
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