The tsunami that devastated Japan in March and sent awesome waves of water across the Pacific Ocean also sent glowing waves into the sky, a phenomenon scientists caught on camera.
The massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck below the seafloor on March 11 sent waves of energy rushing through the ocean. That energy created the monstrous and deadly tsunami, but the tsunami itself sent waves of energy racing high into the atmosphere , smashing charged and neutral particles together as they went, which created so-called "airglow," Science News reported.
Scientists operating a camera atop a mountain in Hawaii caught the airglow on film, a first, the researchers said.
"It's just total serendipity that we got this measurement," Jonathan Makela, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told Science News. "It's a really neat example of how the environment is coupled together."
Tsunami sky waves are a grand affair. The waves can travel higher than 180 miles (300 km) above the Earth , equivalent to a trip from Chicago to Indianapolis. Their peaks and valleys are meters, sometimes hundreds of meters apart; their horizontal wavelengths the distance from one peak to the next can be several hundred kilometers.
Scientists have measured these atmospheric waves using GPS instruments in the past, but the new photograph from Hawaii is the first actual image of these waves in action.
Those who have studied these waves extensively have said that with the proper observational tools in place, these tsunami sky waves could complement current early warning systems for the deadly, terrestrial waves.
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