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No. 13: Winter 1981

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Violent Undersea Weather

Long lines of frothing, turbulent water and transitory packets of large waves occasionally sweep across an otherwise placid sea. Usually dismissed as "rips," satellite photos reveal that these disturbances may be 125 miles long. Often several can be seen criss-crossing an ocean simultaneously from different directions. Some have a 12.5-hour period. linking them to lunar tidal action. The surface manifestations, like the tip of the iceberg, only hint at what transpires beneath the surface. The long corridors of disturbance, moving at about 5 mph, mark where "internal waves" intersect the surface. Down be-low, submarines and other objects may suddenly rise or fall as much as 600 feet. Internal waves may in fact have caused several submarine disasters.

How are internal waves created? Tid-al waters may spill over an undersea sill or ledge, creating a travelling disturbance. Some oceanographers liken the internal waves to the lee waves formed parallel to large mountain ranges. Manifestly, there is much to learn about undersea weather.

(Anonymous; "Underwater Waves Held a Possible Clue to Disappearances of U.S. Submarines," Baltimore Sun, October 5, 1980.)

Reference. We collect observations of periodic bands of waves under GHW2 in our Catalog: Earthquakes, Tides. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #13, Winter 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987