Waves Over the Rockies

These spectacular wave-like clouds are the result of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. When two layers of air move past one another at different velocities, an unstable shear layer forms at their interface. Disturbances in this shear layer grow exponentially, creating these short-lived overturning waves that quickly turn turbulent. The strong resemblance of these clouds to breaking ocean waves is no coincidence–the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability occurring between the wind and water is what generates many ocean waves. Kelvin-Helmholtz patterns are also common on other planets, like Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. (Image credit: Breckenridge Resort; submitted by jshoer)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: