22 Jun 2014

Research into 'gravity waves' over alps

1:49 pm on 22 June 2014

Atmospheric researchers based in Christchurch hope to deliver more reliable weather and climate forecasts.

The Deepwave research team comprises scientists from the United States, Germany and New Zealand.

They are using a flying laboratory to research the formation of gravity waves over the Southern Alps.

They are using a flying laboratory to research the formation of gravity waves over the Southern Alps. Photo: PHOTO NZ

They are using a flying laboratory to research the formation of gravity waves over the Southern Alps.

Gravity waves have a strong effect on the weather, and occur when wind is disturbed by an obstructing landform, sending ripples up into the air.

One of the lead researchers, Ron Smith, said this particular project is looking at how deep the waves can penetrate into the sky, which will improve weather forecasting in the future.

He said past studies have only measured up to 15kms altitude, but these tests will measure up to 100 kms.

New Zealand's latitude provides consistent wind, which with the Southern Alps, gives regular waves, he said.