DISCUSSION: There is no debate whatsoever that meteorological research has come quite a long way over the past 40 to 50 + years since the start of the modern remote sensing era. Having said that, there are still many mysteries concerning various details of the atmosphere and its many phenomena it creates that remain unknown (and/or possibly undetected) to atmospheric scientists around the world. One such example of an atmospheric phenomenon which remains somewhat alluring to atmospheric scientists around the world are gravity waves observed across the cloud-top expanse of intense tropical cyclones.
The primary reason for why gravity waves emanating from the inner cores of intense tropical cyclones have remained mysterious until more recent years (i.e., years since late 2016 when the GOES-16 or GOES-East satellite imager was launched into orbit) is due to the fine-scale at which this phenomenon occurs in real life. More specifically, prior to the years in which the GOES-East satellite imager was in active status, such a fine-scale atmospheric cloud-based phenomenon was nearly impossible to ever observe in real-time and study to any legitimate extent. However, with the advent of the GOES-16 satellite imager as well as its Western Pacific counterpart by way of the Himawari-8 satellite imager, atmospheric scientists have completely changed the game in terms of the high resolution at which atmospheric features can now be studied.
In getting to intense tropical cyclone-based gravity wave formation (one such example of which is captured above in association with Super Typhoon Meranti which occurred back in September 2016 over in the Western Pacific Ocean), such gravity waves which effectively look like “ripples in a pond” which emerge from the center of intense tropical cyclones form as a result of intense inner to outer pressure gradients. To be more precise, as a given tropical cyclone intensifies rapidly, there is a corresponding rapid change in pressure from the inner to outer parts of a tropical cyclone. This increasingly rapid change in atmospheric pressure from the center outwards generates a wave-like response which realizes in the form of gravity waves. Thus, this just goes to show how the current state-of-the-art satellite era has changed the way in which we observe Earth’s atmosphere.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz