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Pribilof Islands
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Pribilof Islands

June 16, 2014
The Pribilof Islands sit in the Bering Sea, about 200 miles (320 km) off the coast of Alaska and about 500 mi (800 km) southeast of Russia. The two main islands and two islets that make up the volcanic island group are often covered by clouds, and are also frequently swept by strong winds.

On June 4, 2014 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite flew overhead and captured this striking true-color image of the islands. Covered by a large bank of clouds, the rugged, rocky islands would remain completely hidden from view, except for the interplay of air, clouds and island.

As wind blows against the taller peaks on St. Paul (north) and St. George (south), the flow of the wind is disturbed, creating turbulent flow. The turbulent air creates patterns in the clouds, with clouds forming when the rolling air is at the peak of its wave, and clouds dissipating – leaving open space – where the air rolls into a trough. The rippled patterns are called “ship-wave-shaped” wave clouds, in honor of the resemblance to the V-shape wake left by boats moving in the water.

Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC



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