January 14, 2014
(25 March 2012) --- Wave clouds near Ile aux Cochons are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member on the International Space Station. This photograph illustrates the formation of wave clouds in the wakeâ€”or downwind sideâ€”of Ile aux Cochons ("Isle of Pigs") located in the Southern Indian Ocean. The island is approximately located 3,000 kilometers southeast of the southern tip of the African continent and 2,300 kilometers northwest of Antarctica. The island itself, of which only a part of the eastern coastline is visible at center, is volcanic in origin with a summit elevation of 775 meters above sea level. According to scientists, the Ile aux Cochons stratovolcano is thought to have erupted within the last 12,000 years; however no historical activity has been recorded. The summit elevation is high enough for the land surface to interact with cloud layers and winds flowing past the island. Two major cloud layers are visible; a lower, more uniform layer consists of roughly parallel cloud "streets" that suggest a westerly flow pattern of air. When the air mass encounters the Ile aux Cochons, moisture-laden air rises and cools, causing more water vapor to condense into clouds. As the air mass passes over the summit of Ile aux Cochons and descends, it may encounter alternating moist and dry air layers, enabling the formation of the discontinuous chevron-shaped wave clouds in the wake of the island. While their appearance suggests that the clouds are forming in the wake of the island and moving eastwards, in fact it is the air mass that is moving, with clouds forming in regions of moist air and dissipating in dry regions. Ile aux Cochons is the westernmost of the islands that form the subantarctic Crozet Archipelago (part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands). Accept for occasional research visits, the island is uninhabited. The island is an important breeding site for seabirds, including the world's largest King Penguin colony.
Topics: Physical geography, Meteorology, Atmospheric sciences, Environment, Île aux Cochons, Wave cloud, Cumulus, Water vapor, Crozet Islands, Cloud