NASA Spots Electric Blue Clouds Over Antarctica Earlier Than Usual This Year

Posted: Dec 3 2016, 8:41am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA Spots Electric Blue Clouds Over Antarctica Earlier than Usual this Year
Credit: NASA
 

Noctilucent or night-shining clouds are high altitude clouds that are formed around 60 miles above the ground in a layer called mesosphere

NASA’S AIM spacecraft has spotted noctilucent ice clouds glowing over Antarctica earlier than expected.

Noctilucent or night-shining clouds are Earth's highest clouds that are formed around 60 miles above the Earth’s surface, in a layer of atmosphere called mesosphere and they are relatively different from their familiar terrestrial cousins. These clouds are made of tiny crystals of water ice and are seeded by the bits of debris from broken meteorites and meteorites. 

Noctilucent clouds look electric blue haze as seen from space. They glow bright, shocking blue when the sunlight falls on them and reflected by their surface. Unlike normal, wispy clouds, these ice clouds develop above polar region in the summer months due to low atmospheric temperatures and last for only a limited period of time. So, the presence of these clouds at this time of year means noctilucent cloud season has arrived early to the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers, however, are unable to explain why these clouds have formed earlier than anticipated.

The blue bright clouds were spotted November 17 when AIM or Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft was flying across the region. The date equals the earlier start of noctilucent cloud season ever recorded by AIM. 

“We observe them seasonally, during summer in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere. This is when the mesosphere is most humid, with water vapor wafting up from altitudes. Additionally, this is also when the mesosphere is the coldest place on Earth – dropping as low as minus 210 degrees Fahrenheit- due to seasonal air flow patterns.” Authors wrote in NASA website

Launched in 2007, the AIM spacecraft is designed to understand mesosphere layer of the atmosphere and its potential effects on weather and climate. Noctilucent clouds are of high scientific value as they occur under certain conditions and observing these clouds can provide more insight into the dynamic atmosphere of the remote region.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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