Gravity Waves Seen by NASA's AIRS Instrument

Narration: Lori Perkins


NASA scientists have tracked gravity waves traveling thousands of miles across our atmosphere in concentric rings. Large storms can create these waves, which grow and spread upward hundreds of miles above Earth's surface.

The AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite detected gravity waves in the troposphere and stratosphere 12 hours before a deadly EF5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, in 2014. On the instrument's next pass 11 hours later, it detected even stronger waves.

We pull up 250 miles to the ionosphere, where the waves can be observed by GPS satellites. Here gravity waves are shown in greens and yellows, like ripples in a pond. The waves and tornado were both produced by a long-lived storm system.

Understanding the spread of gravity waves improves global weather forecasting and space weather forecasting.