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NCAR scientists determine planes can punch holes in clouds

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 5:57am MST
An example of a hole-punch cloud over Alabama. (Alan Sealls, WKRG-TV / NCAR)

An example of a hole-punch cloud over Alabama. (Alan Sealls, WKRG-TV / NCAR)

Mysterious, almost UFO-looking, clouds have fascinated viewers from the ground for decades. Now, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder have determined that planes can ‘punch holes’ in clouds and perform the equivalent of cloud seeding.

Andrew Heymsfield, a scientist at NCAR, said that given the right conditions, planes climbing or descending can cause the atmospheric phenomena known as hole-punch, or canal clouds. When they do, they create unusual cloud formations and can cause rain and snow to develop.

Scientists have long speculated about the cause of the unusual ‘holes’ in the clouds and had attributed them to various aviation-related causes, none of which were conclusive.

The scientists at NCAR determined that water droplets at 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius) are the key factor. When a plane flies through these droplets, the air behind it is cooled and the droplets freeze and fall toward the Earth.

There's more to this story on Examiner.com!Get the rest of this story including more photos and video explaining the phenomena at the Denver Weather Examiner!

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