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Wave forms in clouds
The images in this article are taken from various sources to illustrate the common patterns in wave phenomena. The scales vary greatly as do the media that are producing the forms. However, given the great differences it is remarkable that the forms resemble each other so closely.
The first image was taken by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) west satellite. In it we can see a front approaching the West Coast of the United States. The strong wave like form that is moving in against the coast is the leading edge of a low that is centered off of the coast of Oregon. The front line where the weather is threatening is the large white comma form stretching from the PNW out to the southwest over the ocean. The white area is composed of banks of storm clouds. This is where the energy is in the system. In this photo the front line is meeting resistance along the mountain ranges of the coast and the clouds are backing up along the front line. The area behind the front wave is much more calm with scattered clouds laid down in patches in a relatively calm sky. This area is the calm area that follows the turbulent passage of the front.
This image is taken of a lee wave that was coming off of a plume of storm energies surrounding Mt. Shasta in northern California. The direction of the flow was from the left to the right. The volcano was to the immediate right of the picture. The ridge in front of the picture is leading to the slope of the volcano. The flow around the mountain was backing up against the sloped ridge and then surging upwards in a wave. The clouds in the picture were in the calm area behind the wave. The front of the wave is to the right in the picture and the calm area is in the center of the image. Here we see a phenomenon similar to the wave from the GOES satellite except that it is on a much smaller scale. The tufts of cloud in the wake of the upward surging wave cover a few hundred square miles. In the first picture the tufts of cloud in the wake of the surging wave front cover thousands of square miles but the pattern is the same.
In figure 3 we see a portion of surf just after a wave as hit a beach. The wave is at the top but in this picture it has moved from the top to the bottom to break in towards the beach and now the flow is from the bottom to the top of the picture as the wave recedes from the beach. This puts the surging front at the top of the picture moving out of the top of the picture. Like the other examples, this wave front is a source of turbulence. As the turbulent wave moves through, the masses of spindrift foam that are left in the wake of the passing of the wave resemble the tufts of clouds in the wake of the frontal passage in the satellite photo and the tufts of clouds in figure 2 where the pattern of tufts was produced as the wave surged upwards around a large obstruction.
In this fourth image we see the wake left as quartz was ground on a glass plate with another glass plate. The grinding of the quartz has left the particles in a very fine state. The flow of the grinding plate was from the lower left to the upper right. The deposits of the quartz particles left in the wake of the grinding plate very closely resemble the patterns of deposition in the other three examples. In this example we have moved from an extreme macro scale composed of water and air and warmth to an extreme micro scale composed of minerals and movement and yet the pattern of the distribution of tufts of material left in the wake of a passing wave force is remarkably reminiscent of the other examples.