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Indexed under : Earth Sciences

Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

Antarctic gravity waves

Note: A 'Gravity Wave' is an atmospheric phenomenon - not to be confused with 'Gravitational Waves' which are gravity variations.

Persistent, dominant, large-amplitude Gravity Waves were discovered above Antarctica in 2016 using simultaneous LIDAR and MF radar observations.

(An atmospheric gravity wave is seen when air layers of different densities (i.e. temperatures) are displaced from equilibrium, and are subsequently 'corrected' by gravitational forces. ( see : Wikipedia)

The waves circulate above Antarctica at a height of about 50 kilometres. They are permanently in action, all year round, occurring with a period of 3 - 10 hours. The waves can cause rapid temperature changes, high in the atmosphere, of up to 40 degrees C.

It's thought that they may have implications for global weather systems, high level winds, and communications transmissions.

It's not currently known what drives the waves, and why they are so persistent and regular.

Many features of the 3–10 h waves challenge our understanding of gravity waves and demand deeper investigation into the sources and mechanisms for their generation, the reasons for their persistence, and their impacts on general circulation and chemical climate models.

See JGR Space Physics, Volume 121, Issue 2

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