Wave Clouds in the Gulf of Carpentaria
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Wave Clouds in the Gulf of Carpentaria

September 19, 2003
Rippling like water, the clouds over the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia have a wave-like appearance that illustrates how the atmosphere often behaves like a fluid. Like water waves, air masses can have peaks (high-points) and troughs (low-points). At the peak of the air wave, the air is rising, which causes the water vapor in the air to cool and condense into cloud particles. If enough of these clouds particles form, they will form a visible cloud that follows along the edges of the wave peak. In the true-color Terra MODIS image featured here, the wave peaks occur where the clouds form into long, curving tendrils. As the air moves from the peak of the wave to the trough, it warms, which causes the water vapor to evaporate, thus leaving a clear space between one cloud-covered wave peak and the next.

Adding to this spectacular image are a number of fires (marked in bright red) on the Cape York Peninsula (east), Arnhem Land (northwest), and Barkly Tableland (south

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