Surprisingly, internal waves can sometimes be seen clearly in satellite imagery (like in the above image of the Luzon Strait). This is because the internal waves create alternating rough and smooth regions of the ocean that align with the crest of the internal wave. Sunlight reflects the smooth sections, appearing as white arcs, while the rough sections stay dark. MODIS data courtesy of NASA/Image processed at Global Ocean Associates.
David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
““It’s an important missing piece of the puzzle in climate modeling,” Thomas Peacock [an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT] says. “Right now, global climate models are not able to capture these processes,” he says, but it is clearly important to do so: “You get a different answer … if you don’t account for these waves.” To help incorporate the new findings into these models, the researchers will meet in January with a climate-modeling team as part of an effort sponsored by the National Science Foundation to improve climate modeling.
“Beyond their effects on climate, internal waves can play a significant role in sustaining coral-reef ecosystems, which are considered vulnerable to climate change and to other environmental effects: Internal waves can bring nutrients up from ocean depths, Peacock says.”