According to a new study, gravity waves, mysterious waves that ripple unseen throughout the atmosphere, may be a major source of airplane turbulence. Yep, gravity, the source of all my weight and aging problems, is now found to be hitting airplanes in waves (like water). Gravity waves in the atmosphere can amplify and break , and it’s been determined that’s it’s a major contributor to turbulence in the atmosphere that affects aircraft.
Gravity waves form when air traveling up and down in the atmosphere meets resistance. For instance, clouds rising in the troposphere, the lower level of the atmosphere where air mixes freely, will bump up against the boundary of the much more stable stratosphere, forming ripples in the process. Big mountains like the Colorado Rockies often form gravity waves as air flows over the mountains and then overshoots as it reaches the other side.
If you think about it, the theory behind gravity waves make a lot of sense. For example, have you every asked yourself why it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning on some days than others. Or why your weight fluctuates 5-10 pounds? It’s not the extra piece of holiday cake. It’s because you’re being hit with a gravity wave.
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