Journal article

Rapidly Evolving Cirrus Clouds Modulated by Convectively Generated Gravity Waves

Abhnil A Prasad, Steven C Sherwood, Michael J Reeder, Todd P Lane



Cirrus clouds can strongly affect Earth's radiation balance, but questions remain about their growth mechanisms and rates. Here we show that gravity (buoyancy) waves generated by a storm in Northern Australia on 13 November 2015 caused an observable rippling effect on cirrus clouds up to 1,000 km away, as seen by the recently launched Himawari-8/9 geostationary satellite. Regional model simulations reproduce the propagation speed of the wave, which agrees with theoretical predictions, and show that the wave amplitude and timing near the tropopause can account for the cirrus modulation. The observed cirrus reach peak optical depths of order 0.3–1.0 and appear roughly in phase with the arrival..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science

Awarded by ARC

Awarded by ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes

Funding Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and National Center for Atmospheric Research, for providing the Final analysis (FNL) data ( and WRF model (, respectively. We also acknowledge NASA LAADS DAAC for providing the MODIS data ( In addition, we would also like to thank the Australian National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (CE110001028) for providing computational resources for this work. A. A. P. was funded by ARC grant FL150100035. S. C. S., M. J. R., and T. P. L. are supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CE170100023). We appreciate the helpful suggestions of the anonymous reviewers that greatly improved the manuscript.