Eckermann and Preusse analysed data from the cryogenic infrared spectrometer and telescope for the atmosphere (CRISTA), which was flown on the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1994. They discovered that the gravity waves caused by the flow of air over mountains can exist as high as 45 km, which is well into stratosphere (Science 286 1534). The CRISTA instrument mapped the waves by measuring temperature fluctuations in the stratosphere. The results revealed gravity waves connected to the Andes, the Alps and central Eurasia - some of the largest mountain chains in the world.

"It is exciting that they have found experimental evidence of what we have only previously predicted," said James Denholm-Price, a climate modeller from Kingston University in the UK. The research also has implications for global climate models and weather forecasting.