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Picture Of The Day: Hole Punch Clouds

December 28, 2010

In the picture above you can see satellite image of Hole Punch clouds formed over West Virginia clouds during Dec of 2009.  In one of my earlier post, I have discussed the mechanism of such cloud formation.

We all know water freezes at 0 degree C, but due to lack of any dust particles or any other surface in higher altitudes, water can be in liquid form even below zero degrees or in other words it can exist in supercooled state. Now any particle which can work as seed particle can trigger the formation of ice and airplanes can provide the seed particles. Exhaust of jet planes generate tiny particles which can trigger ice formation, while propeller planes causes sudden pressure drop leading to sudden cooling to about -50 degrees C resulting in formation of ice which acts as trigger. As water precipitates, it sucks humidity from surrounding area and form larger ice particles and eventually fall down as snowfall, leaving a hole in the cloud. [Read post]

Passing of airplanes, jet as well as propellers, lead to formation of such hole punch clouds and canals in the sky and they make for great sky watching. These events have also been linked to UFO sightings in the past. This image was taken by using both infra-red and ultraviolet light which makes it easy to identify and distinguish between water clouds and ice clouds. Relatively warmer water clouds appear as pale blue and pink in color which comprises of the majority of the cloud in the image. Iridescent blue color is the signature for the presence of ice which can be seen inside the hole punch cloud. In the canals also similar blue color can be seen signifying the formation of ice as the airplane passes by. People beneath hole punch clouds can experience sudden snowfall depending on the atmospheric condition, but most of the times these ice crystals sublimate directly to vapors due to lack of appropriate rainfall conditions.

Image credit: NASA| Earth Space Observatory | Instrument Landsat 5

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