What causes these waves in the sky?

This beautiful pattern emerges in clouds when two different layers of air in the atmosphere are moving at different speeds. Where the two layers meet, another ‘sheer’ layer is created that becomes unstable due to the changes in speed. Pictured are Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds recently seen over Colorado

From The Daily Mail:

The Breckenridge Resort tweeted the video to highlight something known as Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, which can be found all over the solar system, including in Saturn’s atmosphere.

This beautiful pattern emerges in clouds when two different layers of air in the atmosphere are moving at different speeds.

Where the two layers meet, another ‘sheer’ layer is created that becomes unstable due to the changes in speed.

This creates a vortex and small wave-like patterns, which form into larger eddies.
‘The wind shear creates waves in the flow of air and when there is enough moisture present to make a cloud, the result is little rolling eddies seen along the top of the cloud,’ said Chris Spears, a meteorologist writing for CBS Denver.

‘These eddies are usually evenly spaced and easily identifiable and often don’t last too long.’

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From CBS Denver:

These clouds are known as Kelvin-Helmholtz instability clouds, named for Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, and they are formed due to wind shear in the atmosphere.

Wind shear is a change in either speed, direction, or both over a short distance.

The wind shear creates waves in the flow of air and when there is enough moisture present to make a cloud, the result is little rolling eddies seen along the top of the cloud…

These eddies are usually evenly spaced and easily identifiable and often don’t last too long.

Kelvin-Helmholtz instability clouds are most commonly seen in mountainous areas and they indicate extreme turbulence for aircraft.

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