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Watch gravity waves ripple through Earth's atmosphere

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 13, 2015
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You might think of gravity as an invisible force here on Earth, but that's not entirely true... if you have the right computer simulation, that is. Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research have developed a climate model that shows the gravity waves in the upper atmosphere, where their amplitude is strong enough to create huge ripples. The trick is a higher-resolution model that replicates the waves at their source, and follows them on their way up. As you can see here, the results are dramatic -- gravity is virtually invisible near the surface, but it's impossible to miss when you're 60 miles up.

The model isn't just for show, of course. NCAR's discovery will help it understand how gravity affects atmospheric behavior on a global scale, and how it messes with radios and satellite communications. And since the Sun isn't producing many solar storms at the moment, the modelling gives scientists a good sense of how Earth affects its own skies. Scientists will have to study this data to know what it ultimately means, but you should soon have a good idea of what space weather really does to the planet.

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