Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Weather Talk: Turbulent wave clouds serve as reminder of summer

Although it will be several weeks before area lakes are free of ice, a reminder of a summer day at the lake can occasionally be seen in the sky.

The pleasant rhythm of waves lapping at the lake shore is caused by wind blowing over the water at a faster speed than the water is moving. This same thing happens in the air all the time, but the waves are usually invisible.

On occasion, however, a cloud forms at the interface between two layers of air moving at different velocities. This causes the cloud to take on the shape of rolling waves.

Called Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, or just wave clouds, these clouds are a sign of turbulence in the air. The cloud's name comes from Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, the 19th century scientists who studied and described the physics behind these clouds.

John Wheeler

John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms.  John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold.  When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading.  John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.

(701) 241-5387
Advertisement