When airplanes attack

My friend Jan Null from the Bay Area was lead forecaster for the NWS in Northern California for many years. He emailed me today with this interesting photo. – Anthony

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Looking west from the South Bay this afternoon it looked like something had punched a gigantic circular hole through the layer of clouds above the Coast Range.  What was being seen was what has indeed been labeled as a “hole punch cloud”.

This relatively rare occurenvce is the result of an aircraft flying through a  layer of high clouds that have precisely the right temperatre and moisture.  As the jet aircraft flies through the layer it contributes just enough additonal moisture and exhaust particles for the ice crystals in the cloud to grow large enough to fall out as “fall streaks”.  This happens in a circular pattern around the path of the jet with a hole in the cloud layer being the result.

Jan Null
SF Weather Examiner

Circular cloud patterns can also look tubular…here is another amazing photo.

Morning Glory Cloud

mgcloud.jpg

More details here at Astronomy Picture Of the Day

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73 thoughts on “When airplanes attack

  1. And of course we’re all just supposed to believe that the said ‘streaks’ and just plain natural, right?
    .
    Sorry, but I =AM NOT= buying that line of BS!

    [snip – and we aren’t going to discuss the premise of chemtrails here either – don’t post on this again – Anthony]

  2. I’ve also seen the ‘hole punch’ cloud following a thunderstorm, and in an area without planes. So maybe other things can cause this effect?

    Not sure flying saucers are a causal factor though :-)

  3. The tubular clouds in the second photo are amazing. I’ve never seen tubular clouds before in nature or in photos.

    It’s images like these that are one of the rewards for stopping by WUWT.

  4. I was always amazed growing up in the midwest seeing isolated patches of altocumulus or cirrocumulus with fall streakes below them. Often times the streaks would hit a strong layer of winds and shear them at right angles.

  5. Truly amazing & quit beautiful too. You know what, I blame global warming! If it’s caused by human kind it has to be.

  6. You will probably get a swag of comments from Australian and now increasingly a number of international glider pilots who are making Burketown a mecca to ride those roll clouds pictured above.
    A similar but quite rare roll cloud system is also sometimes found across the South Australian Spencer and St Vincent Gulfs.

    In about 1973, I was incredibly fortunate through nothing other than sheer unbridled good luck to be in a good performance glider and just airborne behind a glider tug when a single roll cloud similar to those pictured formed in an incredibly short time of only a few short minutes and only a few kilometres from our local Horsham airstrip in the central west of the state of Victoria in south eastern Australia.
    What followed was one of the most incredible rides of my life.
    Cruising at about 300 to 500 feet in the strong lift of the rising air along the great vertical face of the advancing roll cloud, at over 100 knots [ 115 mph + or 185 kph + ] for tens of kilometres in the glider and over dead flat terrain.
    The sheer exhilaration of being able to pull up into vertical climbs of a thousand feet or more and then dipping and diving right down along the face of that roll cloud to a couple of hundred feet above the ground and then winding that Airspeed indicator right up again and around the dial as we hammered along the great vertical front face of that roll cloud as it eerily rolled across the wide flat wheatlands of western Victoria.
    And all this without the roaring of engines, with nothing but the burbling of the wind noise of a high performance, high speed motor-less glider and with nothing but my flying skills to remain airborne.
    And getting a shot of sheer exhilaration and spine tingling thrills out of something I had never seen before and have never seen again.
    An exhilaration that is impossible to convey through words to those who do not fly and even to those who fly with engines.
    The sheer exhilaration of experiencing an almost unique phenomena that so few will ever see let alone have the physical right up close experience of flying an actual roll cloud.

    I have never seen another roll cloud in our region since that one although one of my fellow gliding club members a couple of years later, saw three of these roll clouds in succession roll over his property in the same region very early one morning.

  7. Oh, and hey: If you people can’t handle the TRUTH about PICTURES >YOUYOU< can't handle?!?!
    .
    That you have the freaking temerity to post BALD-FACED LIES from some JERK professing a ~new~ cloud formation, and thence declare that NOBODY may challenge that PROCLAMATION?
    .
    Science, you say?
    .
    Science which can't =OR WILL NOT= be challenged?
    .
    YOU ARE NO BETTER THAN THE SNAKE OIL SALESMAN YOU PROFESS TO EXPOSE!
    .
    Go ahead, MR. WATTS, DELETE THIS POST TOO!

    REPLY:“E.J.”, I’m leaving this up as an example to show how chemtrailers react when they don’t get to discuss this ridiculous idea. You are dis-invited sir.

    BTW for cognizant readers, here are all of the “hole punch clouds” on the net. Notice that the term is not ~new~

    – Anthony Watts

  8. I’ve always been impressed by these “spaceship” clouds (aka, lenticular clouds) that form over the Front Range of the Rockies on a regular basis.

  9. There was no commercial airline traffic for several days after 9/11 and of course, no contrails either. Was there any noticable change in the weather?

  10. The morning glory is a glider pilots dream come true. Just keep on flying in a straight line to the end of the cloud line. Fantastic stuff.

    But like all good love-stories, you wake up next morning and its gone…

    .

  11. >>>And of course we’re all just supposed to believe that the
    >>>said ’streaks’ and just plain natural, right?

    This just goes to show how our education system has been debased in recent years, and how far science has still to go before we achieve an educated, rational population.

    Highlander, you should get up close to one of these wave bars – fly along it, dip a wing in, and out again. Fly up and over it, dive through and pull a loop. Then land, try to stop smiling like a Cheshire cat, and take a look at the science.

    Although complex, if you imagine the morning glory as being a cross between a standing wave and a sea-breeze front, you will not be far wrong. If that is too complex for you, just blame it on the gods.

    .

  12. In my years as a professional pilot I’ve seen- and been in – a lot of cloud phenomena.
    One very memorable trip was over the high Cascades, between Seattle and Ellensburg Wa. I and my co-pilot were in between layers of cloud,what was truly wild was there
    were columnar clouds between the layers, the whole scene was lit up by a near full moon.It was like being in a Greek Temple-of cloud.Never seen anything like it since.
    Nature can do some pretty wild things on her own…

  13. This is the close cousin of the morning glory, the pure unadulterated wave cloud.

    http://www.pbase.com/cindyd/image/75991891

    In this case, there are two mountain peaks producing two UFOs – sorry, I keep slipping back into National Enquirer mode – producing two wave stacks. If you are lucky, you can climb a glider at 2,000 f/min in front of one of these. Just don’t get on the wrong side of it, because you are then going down at 2,000 ft/min.

    .

  14. I wish I had a video of the most stunning gravity wave I ever saw, but all I can offer is a description.

    It was an August morning in the early 1990s, and there was a thin, low overcast like the one in the video above. I was near the town of LaGrange, Wyoming on this morning. In Wyoming in late August we often have a few days of cold air near the ground surface, with warm air above, and an interface between the two of thin overcast. The sky on such a day is full of ripples in the overcast that look like chop on a windswept sea.

    Out southwest there appeared a very dark patch in the sky that approached at high speed, certainly more than 60 km/hr, even though there was no surface level winds to speak of. As the dark patch passed overhead we got a splash of rain and thunder. The dark patch raced off quickly to the northeast.

    I could only surmise that a gravity wave propagated along the interface, and a layer above the overcast, or perhaps a narrow band above it, was just at the point of instability, so that the passing wave would trigger a very brief squall. I have never witnessed anything like it before or since. However, it has caused me to ponder that thunderstorms might be likened in ways to waves passing through unstable air, and can therefore move in ways one would not expect from the prevailing winds.

  15. Airplane hole my patootie! Everyone knows that anything like that cloud hole can only be caused by man-made global warming.

  16. One regret I have in my life, is not pursuing the art of glider piloting. Thanks to all, for your vivid descriptions. Unfortunately, they are as salt in the wounds of regret. Sailing provides much comfort as it too can provide 3 dimensional flying… but to sail among the clouds… quietly… sniff… snort… makes you feel the wonder.

  17. Highlander (05:16:05) :

    That you have the freaking temerity to post BALD-FACED LIES from some JERK professing a ~new~ cloud formation, and thence declare that NOBODY may challenge that PROCLAMATION?

    These aren’t new cloud formations. If you’re talking about that-which-must-not-be-named, those reports never seem to come from people who literally keep their heads in the clouds.

    Be glad I don’t run this blog, I’d probably reflexively ban anyone who uses all caps. Good science doesn’t need all-caps.

  18. Hey, I saw that exact same formation my self; and it reminded me of the picture you published of that from above shot of the volcano in alaska with the nifty cloud forming over the ash cloud, as well as the empty hole blown in the cloud cover by the volcano heat.

    Once when driving back from SoCal on highway -5 over the grapevine, there had been a recent shower, although the sun was out, and scattered clouds in the sky. Although the rain had stopped, the road was still wet, and I was anoyed that the cars flying past me in adjacent lanes were “kicking up” clouds of water which my wipers had trouble keeping up with; making driving unpleasant. I couldn’t inderstand why there was so much water left on the road for car tires to spray all over the place.

    Well there wasn’t; I soon figured out what was happening by watching the cars as they went by.

    Each car was in fact creating its own cloud as it passed through the air. The air was so humid from the recent shower, and sunshine, that as the car puehd through the air, the local air pressure dropped due to Bernoulli’s principle, as it diverted around the cars; and that was enough to supersaturate the air, and form a small cloud around each car, whcih was then blown over following vehicles; all that water was not being kicked up fby the tires, but started right at the very front of the cars.

    The problem hasn’t bothered me since, even though I still see it happen; now that I know what causes it, it isn’t a driving problem any more.

    George

  19. Fantastic morning glory clouds! I hadn’t ever heard of such a thing before seeing this pic a couple of days ago while doing some of my volcano searching.
    It looks to me like the very end of the clouds in the picture trail right down into the water.
    I love nature! It’s amazing and humbling all at once. Thanks again for teaching me something new every day.

  20. “ralph ellis (07:20:02) :

    This is the close cousin of the morning glory, the pure unadulterated wave cloud.

    http://www.pbase.com/cindyd/image/75991891

    In this case, there are two mountain peaks producing two UFOs – sorry, I keep slipping back into National Enquirer mode – producing two wave stacks. If you are lucky, you can climb a glider at 2,000 f/min in front of one of these. Just don’t get on the wrong side of it, because you are then going down at 2,000 ft/min.”

    Looks, to me, like the Michelin Man with his head stuck above the clouds and his feet dangling below

  21. Rom
    I’m sure all the glider pilots here understand exactly what you’re saying. I am very jealous. It’s not of the same magnitude, but I managed to get up to Aboyne in Scotland some years back and in the course of a week got to grips with flying in wave. The wave increased as the week went on and on the last day I managed to get into really big wave. This one wasn’t strong and you had to get to around 4000ft to get into it, but I got up to around 14,000ft. There was another glider above me at around 24,000ft. I could have gone higher but I was told to come down as the lower cloud was closing in around the tops of the mountains.
    The trip back down is another story but I was on a high for days. The most amazing thing is getting above cloud.

  22. John Galt (06:20:28) :
    There was no commercial airline traffic for several days after 9/11 and of course, no contrails either. Was there any noticable change in the weather?

    As I understand it the day time temps were hotter and the night time temps were colder. All sorts of conclusions can be arrived at from this. However, as I see it, when the sun is shining cloud means cooler, and no matter what the cloud, whether high or low altitude I have never experienced it get hotter when the sun goes behind cloud.
    I know where this can lead to when talking about contrails but I think this photo is interesting as the contrail is being generated not just by the engines.
    http://www.airliners.net/photo/Skynet-Asia-Airways/Boeing-737-4M0/1551174/L/
    There are plenty more like this.

  23. I’ve seen that as a linear formation.

    One chilly November morning three years ago I went out to feed the critters and looked up. There was a thin, “bumpy” overcast (I don’t know the correct cloud names), and a jet departing DFW had climbed into it. It left an inverse contrail — a section where the clouds had been cleared by the airplane’s passage.

    I took a picture, but unfortunately the computer it’s on no longer has access to the Internet. Jay Manifold posted it on his blog, but Jay hasn’t updated in a long time and doesn’t allow access to his archives.

    Regards,
    Ric

  24. I had the pleasure of riding with an old friend in his Blanik L-13 back in the 70’s
    took a wave trip over the Blue Mtns. of NE Oregon. Got to 18,000 before it got
    dark,That was the only time I enjoyed a Wave most of the time I was in one was trying to cross the Cascades,Siskyous,Sierra,or Blues with a powered plane, usually hauling people, freight, or retardant-and not having fun while doing it…

  25. Another name for streaks of precipitation that evaporate before reaching the ground is virga.

  26. @ ralph ellis (07:20:02) :

    Those are really spectacular lenticularis. Thanks for the photo.

    This reminds me of an experience many years ago:
    I was dropping off skydivers at the front edge of a developing lentil at about 12000 feet.
    We were talking about it on the way up. Instead of doing their free-fall stuff they immediately pulled the ‘chutes. It took them forever to finally come down. For a while they could hold altitude just cruising around at that front edge.

  27. Highlander beat me to the subject of chemtrails, only I’m not pushing the idea. I attended my Representative’s townhall meeting this week, people had the usual questions. Until one gal who looked about like you’d expect went into the whole schpiel about them. My Rep was a lot more patient with her than the crowd was…

  28. The BAE 146 is no longer made and is actually an early 1970’s design of STOL commuter jet. Amazingly it uses neither reverse thrust, it stops on its brakes hence the massive undercart, nor has any leading edge devices.

    But oh what enormous flaps it has and when it used to come in here, for many years, we had a regular service, when they wound on the flap what contrails showing the vortices those flap edges produced in the right weather.

    Spectacular, as was the approach speed, it almost seemed to hang motionless in the air, although I believe wasn’t that much lower than most other commercial aircraft of it’s size.

    And flying into London City on it when they a used a descent angle of I believe of between 6 and 8 degrees was also spectacular especially going past the Green monster, Canary Wharf. Almost as amazing as going into the old Kai Tek, hope I got that right, Hong Kong, airport with skyscrapers looming above you to either side.

    And oddly it is also the only aeroplane when I have heard the odd sound, like a handclap, of the wing vortex collapsing as it omes to a halt. If of course that is what it was. But it always made strange noises, on take off the flap gear produced a sound remarkably like a tube [London Underground) train coming out the tunnel as it approaches the platform.

    No idea why.

    Kindest Regards.

  29. When I was a kid, back in the ’50’s in Southern California, we had some really odd clouds from time to time. That was before the smog just grayed everything out. Seems like the moist air from over the ocean would get caught in the LA Basin and be shaped by the thermals coming off the freeways. We would have tube clouds, stuff that looked like a plowed field, sometimes even a big spherical cloud.

    And if I would be allowed to mention this: I always thought it was odd that people use chemtrail instead of contrail, when speaking about the condensation trail left by a jet airplane. Sort of like getting upset with people using a perfectly good word like niggardly, and thinking that it has some racial connotation. English is a beautiful, albeit somewhat confusing, language. A shame when people butcher it.

  30. Janice: The chemtrail people aren’t talking about contrails. Not in the sense that normal people do. They believe that jet engines are spreading chemical X into the atmosphere, for (pick your own) nefarious purposes.

  31. Thanks, Anthony, for allowing one of Highlander’s lunatic outbursts. It reminds me of just what odd bed-fellows we have in any cause or interest.

  32. [snip]

    John “the Science Czar” Holdren is an advocate of geoengineering – and worth a read (though not the money) is the book he co-authored in 1977 with Paul “the Population Bomb” Ehrlich (& Mrs. Ehrlich) titled “Ecoscience”. (Note: Ehrlich was already Ronald Reagan’s advicer on enviromental issues)

    http://freedomortyranny.com/john-holdren-speaks-on-geoengineering-notice-the-book-ecoscience-on-the-shelf

    And though Holdren – a self-appointed “neo-malthusian” – says “geoengineering is expensive” – remember that these people are ready to do anything in order to curb the world’s pop… I mean, the global temperatures…

    “Rockefeller Refers to Obama’s Science Czar as ‘Walking on Water’” –
    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/52757

    Ps. I just love my goverment – how about you – are ready for the mandatory flu-shot?

  33. Amazing tube cloud formation. Wonder what they look like at ground level. As a landscape photographer here in Australia I’d love to shoot a cloud formation like that. Totally unique.

  34. >>>Here is a youtube of roll clouds over Munich.

    That’s a different phenomena. That was a weak cold front (a trough-line) pushing through, and generating a line of cloud on its front edge.

    The difference is the trough-line moves rapidly across the land, but the standing wave and morning glory are relatively stationary. The latter two are continuously reforming out of the air that passes through them.

    And a message to Highlander. These cloud formations are very well-known phenomena that have been studied for centuries. And if you really did live in the highlands, and ever looked upwards, you would see them every other week. And as for the the not-to-be-mentioned high-level formations – I make those every day, chum, and not a drop of illicit material in sight. . ;-)

    .

  35. >>>Like these:
    >>> http://www.airliners.net/photo/Virgin-Atlantic-Airways/Airbus-A340-642/1088680/L/
    >>> http://www.airliners.net/photo/United-Airlines/Boeing-747-422/0981369/L/

    Slightly photoshopped pics, but very nice all the same. Both are producing adiabatic condensation, due to the low pressure region over the upper surface of the wing. It only happens when the air is super-saturated. The first pic is also picking up the colours of a rainbow – produced when the Sun is at an angle of 42 degrees to the water droplets.

    Stand on the approach to an airport on a really wet and humid day, and you will see some interesting formations. Like these wing-tip vortices (often from the flaps).

    .

    Here is the other method for an aircraft to produce cloud – just speed up and produce a transonic shock wave.

    And this one just says “I LOVE FLYING”

    .

  36. >>> But it always made strange noises, on take off the flap gear
    >>>produced a sound remarkably like a tube [London Underground)
    >>>train. No idea why.

    The split flaps produced a vortex between themselves, as the gap opened up (just between 5 and 10 degrees of flap). They tried to fix it, but without much success. Besides, the cabin staff liked it, as they knew when to sit down.

    The ‘clap’ sound was probably the rear airbrake, which did literally clap together when closed.

    Approach speed about 90 kts when empty 120kt when full (short version) – so yes, nice and slow.

    Safest aircraft in the sky.

    .

  37. Yes I never really had much faith in the idea that you could hear a wing vortex collapse: but some claim to have heard it.

    Iam afraid it is another tribute to HMG and it’s meddling in business, and the incompetence of a privatised defence contractor who knew nothing of the civil market, and instead of developing a superb design, which after all had modular construction so it could be stretched and altered, and even reengined into a twin jet, quite easily, preferred to pour a vast amount of money into a turboprop design which nobody really wanted.

    And which they couln’t sell until they got a savvy finance director who explained that to sell aeroplanes you need to provide the finance and or leasing package too.

    Kindest Regards.

  38. There is a contractor in the USA who is trying to convert the BAE 146 into a Aerial
    Tanker-the kind that drop slimy red mud on burning trees.If they can get the tankage figgured out should make a good one due to the slow approach speed and handling..
    Now for the trails that their name should not be mentioned.I have worked in aviation,
    28 years-a Fed contractor one way or another,for most of those.I know a lot of people
    in the airplane business.Big and small, jets,pistons and a some ah, ‘other’ ways of
    aviating if this were real, there would be some loader,chemical engineer,pilot or
    Biffy water changer that would rat on it.There is nothing of the sort.None, end of story.
    This would require a conspiracy of incredible and unsustainable proportions,it can’t won’t happen….

  39. This has been a wonderful thread just for the cloud discussion and links. Now a pleasant sidebar on the BAE 146 makes this is a two-fer for me.
    Besides having an inordinate interest in cloud formations common to Airmen everywhere, my late Father was the lead engine rep for Lycoming’s ALF-502, the 146’s powerplant during development and flight testing at Hatfield, and continued his involvement with the engine and airplane until he retired from the company several years later. The plane was perfect for short hauls with a very high max % of takeoff weight as max landing weight and typical fabulously rugged main landing gear. At one time, it was the only airliner that could operate out of Burbank without restrictions because it was so quiet.

    I could go on, but I won’t. Thanks again for the thread.

  40. John Galt (06:20:28) :
    There was no commercial airline traffic for several days after 9/11 and of course, no contrails either. Was there any noticable change in the weather?

    Here’s a link to the abstract of a paper in Nature, “Climatology: Contrails reduce daily temperature range” by David J. Travis, Andrew M. Carleton & Ryan G. Lauritsen that looked at that very thing.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6898/abs/418601a.html

    The weather over the entire US during those three days was unusually clear, allowing a unique opportunity to look at the effects of contrails. They found an increase in the diurnal temperature range of about 1.1 degrees C.

    The main conclusion of the paper has since been questioned (http://www.celsias.com/article/9-11-contrail-climate-effects-questioned/). That’s science.

    Ed

  41. A mate of mine sent me an e-mail with some photos in it including this superb cloud over what looks like Mt Fuji.

  42. Couldn’t believe my eyes. Saw the so-called “hole punch” cloud that day in Santa Cruz, Ca. There were actually FOUR “hole punch” clouds nearly all the same size. I didn’t see that the article mentioned there were FOUR. I took pictures the formations were so bizarre. Odd weather that day too. Extremely hot. I mean extremely hot for a temperate coastal community. Probably just a freak coincidence I am sure.

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