Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Like Waves on a Beach

One of our professors here at the U, John Horel, and several students are participating in a wintertime ozone study over the Uintah Basin this winter.  Amongst the tools that they are using is a laser ceilometer, which sends a pulse of radiation upwards and measures how much is scattered back. The concept is similar to a radar, except the wavelength is shorter, so it is sensitive to small particles (e.g., particulate matter) and it takes a series of vertical profiles rather than horizontal scans.

The data being collected is quite remarkable.  One can see not only layering of the pollutants, but also waves.  Most of these are probably internal gravity waves, which are the atmospheric equivalent of the waves that you might see on the ocean.  They are the very short waves apparent in the top image below.
Source: John Horel (click to enlarge)
However, if you look carefully, you can see longer waves.  These are also gravity waves, but they may be more related to the sloshing of cold air within the basin.

If you wish to geek out, you can monitor the weather and air quality action in the Uintah Basin here.

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