Look At These Crazy Wave Clouds!


Look! In the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a cloud that looks like neither a bird or a plane! A wave! It looks like a wave!

High above South Carolina yesterday “wave clouds” rippled through the sky. They are bonkers!

Look at this video:

Now look at this one:

Weather.com has a whole gallery of crazy shots.

What is a wave cloud? WIRED explains:

These crazy clouds that look like a row of crashing waves are known as Kelvin-Helmholz waves. They form when two layers of air or liquid of different densities move past each other at different speeds, creating shearing at the boundary.

“It could be like oil and vinegar,” Chuang said. “In the ocean, the top is warm and the bottom is really cold. It’s like a thin layer of oil on a big puddle of water.”

When these two layers move past each other, a Kelvin-Helmholz instability is formed that is sort of like a wave. Parts of the boundary move up and parts move down. Because one layer is moving faster than the other, the shear causes the tops of the waves to move horizontally, forming what looks like an ocean wave crashing on the beach.

“It really is like breaking waves,” Chuang said. “A wave breaks when the water on top moves so much faster than the water below that it kind of piles up on itself.”

The world is a weird and beautiful place.

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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