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Wave Clouds Ripple Outwards from Kerguelen Islands

April 10th, 2009 Category: Clouds

Wave clouds by Kerguelen Islands - April 9th, 2009

Wave clouds by Kerguelen Islands - April 9th, 2009

Map of Kerguelen Islands

Map of Kerguelen Islands

The Kerguelen Islands, also known as Desolation Island, are a group of islands in the southern Indian Ocean. The islands are a territory of France. There are no indigenous inhabitants, but France maintains a permanent presence of 50 to 100 scientists, engineers and researchers.

The main island, Grande Terre, is 6,675 km² in area and is surrounded by another 300 smaller islands and islets, forming an archipelago of 7,215 km². The climate is raw and chilly but not severely cold throughout the year. There are frequent high winds, and while the surrounding seas are generally rough, they remain ice-free year-round.

Although the islands themselves are hardly visible in the image, their location is easy to discern due to the presence of wave clouds. These clouds have a rippled, wave-like form similar to that of the wake created by a ship. The islands can be found at the start of that “wake”.

Wave cloud patterns form from atmospheric standing waves, which are created as stable air flows over a mountain range. An air mass travels through the area, repeatedly rising and falling. If the atmosphere contains enough moisture, clouds form at the crests of those rising waves, but evaporate on the falling side, creating a ripple-effect of cloud-covered and cloud-free bands.

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