NASA detects strange electric-blue clouds over Antarctica

NASA’s AIM spacecraft is monitoring a vast ring of electric-blue clouds circling high above Antarctica.

These are noctilucent clouds (NLCs), made of ice crystals frosting specks of “meteor smoke” in the mesosphere 83 km above the frozen continent. Here is an animation from the past week:

This is the season for southern noctilucent clouds. Every year around this time, summertime water vapor billows up into the high atmosphere over Antarctica, providing moisture needed to form icy clouds at the edge of space.  Sunlight shining through the high clouds produces an electric-blue glow, which AIM can observe from Earth orbit.

“The current season began on Nov. 19th,” says Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. “Compared to previous years of AIM data, this season seems to be fairly average, but of course one never knows what surprises lie ahead, particularly since the southern hemisphere seasons are so variable.”

The formation of strange clouds in the high atmosphere over remote Antarctica may seem to be of little practical interest–but that would be incorrect. Researchers studying NLCs have discovered unexpected teleconnections between these clouds and weather patterns thousands of miles away. Two years ago, for instance, Randall and colleagues found that the winter air temperature in many northern US cities was well correlated with the frequency of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica. Understanding how these long-distance connections work could improve climate models and weather forecasting–all the more reason to study eerily beautiful NLCs.

Source: NASA

84 thoughts on “NASA detects strange electric-blue clouds over Antarctica

    • If this is a yearly phenomenon then why is it news at all.

      [ask NASA, they are the source of the story -mod]

      • “this season seems to be fairly average”, says the article.
        And why not report on a typically average phenomenon, instead of just the spectacular outliers?
        We really need more of this in climate reporting, since by and large most weather – and the averages thereof, aka “climate”, are close enough to “normal” to be in the range of natural variability. The claims of “unprecedented” events are mostly overhyped events that are really expected to occur every so often.

  1. If there’s not a man-made premise as to their formation, the research funding will be sparse.
    (That should be some form of acknowledged “Law” in Climate Science/Politics).

      • Im a pilot who flies to either Europe or Asia three or four times a month. On rare occasions, I have observed these clouds in the northern hemisphere. They are visible during the summer months, in the northern latitudes (usually north of 55deg north); when sunlight is barely visible over the northern part of the sky. They are blueish, wispy, eerily luminescent and visible at great distances. I once spotted them east of our position, near the horizon, while flying over northeast Canada. They became larger, filling the left side of the observable horizon as we traveled east over the Atlantic. We observed them until reaching the North Atlantic, just west of Ireland, when they faded as the sunlight grew brighter from the east.

      • Crap, I just discovered that drop box has a limit on how much traffic a link can have before it is banned. I guess all my pic links combined generated too much traffic and so this and possibly others (I don’t know yet) got banned — that’s why the little square thingie appears now instead of the pic I linked to.

    • I began gliding in 1963.
      Noctilucent clouds over the Arctic were already being discussed and speculated on occasionally by those 1950’s and 60’s glider pilots, particularly the Northern European pilots who occasionally in the right conditions got to see these Arctic Noctilucent clouds reflections from the low angle winter sunlight over the Arctic and who were trying to get some idea on just how high those clouds were and what they consisted of and how they were formed.

      The thinking being that the Noctilucent clouds often took on the appearace of Lenticular clouds which are found seen capping Mountain wave systems. But which can also be seen as gravity waves on some occasions far from any wave formation triggering mountain systems.

      So the question back in the 1950’s and 60’s by a few glider pilots was , What maximum height might it be possible to fly a glider to in wave systems?.

      About 55, 000 feet is the current record but then there is the ‘Perlan Project’. [ ]

      The american / australian “Perlan Projects ” fully pressurised, very high altitude glider project is hoping within the next year or two, the last couple of years haven’t provided the right conditions, to be towed out of an Argentinian airfield down near the tip of South America in Patagonia into contact with the immense 50,000 foot high Andes Mountain wave systems where a subset of stratospheric wave systems over and above the Andes Mountain wave systems has been observed under favourable conditions to form stable stratospheric wave systems to over 100,000 feet in the 300 kph velocity winds of the Antarctic’s Polar Vortex.

      The “Perlan project” pilots and meteorological researchers hope that the two man Perlan glider will be able to climb to around 55,000 feet in the Andes Mountain wave systems and make the jump through to the bottom of the Antarctic Polar Vortex wave systems and then go on and climb through to 90,000 foot in the polar vortex waves.
      These Polar Vortex waves which form during the Antarctics winter nights are believed to be able to give the Perlan project glider the constant lift from a wave system sa as to enable the glider and its two man crew to achieve a stable flying height of 90,000 feet which would be the highest “sustained” level of flight yet achieved for both powered and un-powered aircraft.
      As well the Perlan Project glider will have to maintain an airspeed of around 300 kph to maintain position within the Polar vortex wave airstream
      If and when successful , a number of flights are planned it shouldmprovide a wealth of meteorological data for reasearch meteorologists on conditions inside of the polar vortex which rarely if ever has` been measured at these heights.

  2. “Understanding how these long-distance connections work”

    Not connections to the extent that one is causal to another, but only that they are caused by the same underlying condition. It’s the same old confusion between correlation and causation. If A causes B and C, B doesn’t cause C or visa versa, even though both B and C are correlated to each other.

    For example, in the winter it’s cold in both Moscow and Minneapolis. Does this mean that it’s cold in Minneapolis because its cold in Moscow or does it mean that both are cold for the same reason, which of course is reduced solar forcing.

    • It’s all linked. All our weather comes from the sun as it interfaces with our magnetosphere. The waves of particles are separated to both the north and south magnetic poles based on their charge and polarity. As the solar magnetic field warms our planet’s iron magma core via induction and generates a constantly varying magnetosphere, the planet’s temperatures rise and fall with the magnetosphere and its intensity. The clouds formation are linked to local gauss and magnetic field movements. Those same movements are directly linked to the magnetosphere over the US and the rest of the world. As the magnetosphere gauss varies in the antarctic, it likely varies in big swaths of the magnetosphere. There is no cloud that is formed, no wind that blows and no temperature reached that does not follow directly from the Sun-Earth field relationships.

  3. Well correlated, utter bollocks. p hacking to get a correlation between Antarctic clouds and US cities temperatures.

    One might ask which cities?

    Just wait for this to be linked to muh climate change, not long now

  4. ” that the winter air temperature in many northern US cities was well correlated with the frequency of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica.”

    or…..the frequency of noctilucent clouds was well correlated with whatever messes with the winter air temp in many northern US cities…..look for an outside source

  5. Is there any relationship between the apparent “hole” in the noctilucent clouds and the apparent “hole in the ozone layer?

    • By cli-sci reasoning, if two holes form proximate to one another in space and in time, then it is the hole appearing first that causes the hole appearing second, The first hole “gives birth”, as it were, to the second.
      Hope that helps.

      • I wonder whether it is not a hole in our – humanity’s – understanding of these rather unusual effects.

        Sorry – I know the science is settled. Until it is not.


    • bobburban,

      I think the apparent “hole” in the noctilucent clouds is due to the fact that polar orbiting satellites don’t actually go over the poles. The hole represents the limits of their polar obits, and I don’t think there is any relationship with the apparent “hole” in the ozone layer.

    • The ‘hole’ is due to the track the spacecraft travels. The spacecraft covers the greatest amount of surface by going not directly over the pole. . I used to work for the AIM project. The ozone ‘hole’ has nothing to do with noctilucent clouds. A good article on noctilucent clouds can be found . NLCs only form near the poles, the are the highest known clouds and only form under certain conditions in the summer of the hemisphere where they form.

  6. If they “suggest” that CO2, Noctilucent clouds and missing Ozone are connected, grant money should be immediate….

  7. Anthony, I have seen a noctilucent cloud at about 18W over the Atlantic — it was located close to the place we had seen a nacreous cloud the night before. We were up in the mid to high 40s, and both were well above, though the nacreous cloud was much lower than the noctilucent.

    Has anyone had a good look at the chances the two forms are related?


  8. These clouds form in the mesosphere around 50 miles high and only form when the temp drops below -120 C. So if these clouds extend there range over the south pole it may suggest that the mesosphere is colder then average. This change in the mesosphere is what may link them to any change in the winter NH.

    • I have thought that possibility for about a decade now. I believe they are a flag of colder than average mesosphere and atmosphere and a good indicator of colder winters than usual. So far it has shown some kind of correlation between the two. Just like a calm sun correlation with cooler climate which is happening. The trend is a decrease in global temperature. After all…the sun is THE most powerful influence on our tiny planet out there. Man’s influence does not compare at all to the sun’s influence. We are headed into a maunder minium as can be seen by the huge lack of sunspots beyond the average 11 yr cycle. It is comparing to the 1700-1800’s when the sun was penthouse into a similar phase. The cold was unprecedented. Check out the weather history during that time and also the solar activity. They are related.

      The colder the climate becomes, the more the Noctilucent (“night-shining”) clouds appear.

  9. Here in northern England we were treated to a great display of night shinning cloud in July 2014.
    lt was by far the best display l’ve ever seen both in life or in photos. Not only did it display the electric blue colour. But lower down in the northern sky the clouds became white, yellow, and in parts even red.
    The sight was a match for a good northern lights display.

  10. While skeptical about everything, I’m open to considering anything, such as, could meteor dust seed upper-level cloud formation, and if so, what effect on weather would that have?

    We go through several meteor showers a year as we cut across the orbits of debris left by various comets. In some years, a shower may be stronger than in others because of the orbital distribution of that detritus. I think it would be interesting if a researcher looked for a global weather correlation dependent upon showers being strong versus weak or non-existent. Or perhaps a phenomena like this, plus seeding by cosmic radiation pushes us over a threshold that would create different weather patterns, whereas either one taken in isolation would not.

    I would not expect to find [such] correlations, but nature has thrown quite a lot at me that I never would have expected.

    • There’s so many smart people on this site, I’ve gone from the 1st or 2nd smartest in the room to a bottom grader. That said… There’s probably thousands of variables… Nature both pushing and pulling at the same time and it’ll probably take us a hundred years to figure out half if it. On a macro scale, take water vapor, if it was only a positive feedback global warming would go ape poop at the first (natural) heat wave and we all die.

  11. “…could improve climate models…” Only in the minds of post normal subjective progressives can we have a settled science making debate useless in the same universe as a hail of improvements to the theory postulated day by day. A sensible reading of such stuffing would be, on the contrary, these are not fodder for improvement, but chunks and blocks of falsification.

    Where in a bundle of neurons coping with this misbegotten creation are the connections between Anthropogenic CO2 – the control knob, a rotating halo of glazed meteoric dust, glowing precisely 83 km above and centred on Antarctica and the winter temperatures in Chicago, Pittsburg and Albany. Wow, it has to be getting more difficult by the day to be able to diagnose someone who is crazy, neurotic or delusional.

  12. If it didn’t glow, I’d claim it as the mythical Dark Matter. Must be. Can’t find it anywhere else in the cosmos.

    • Stunner, Joel O’Bryan.

      From ‘On a Raised Beach’
      (Hugh McDiarmid)

      All is lithogenesis—or lochia,
      Carpolite fruit of the forbidden tree,
      Stones blacker than any in the Caaba,
      Cream-coloured caen-stone, chatoyant pieces,
      Celadon and corbeau, bistre and beige,
      Glaucous, hoar, enfouldered, cyathiform,
      Making mere faculae of the sun and moon,
      I study you glout and gloss, but have
      No cadrans to adjust you with, and turn again
      From optik to haptik and like a blind man run
      My fingers over you, arris by arris, burr by burr,
      Slickensides, truité, rugas, foveoles,
      Bringing my aesthesis in vain to bear,
      An angle-titch to all your corrugations and coigns,
      Hatched foraminous cavo-rilievo of the world,
      Deictic, fiducial stones. Chiliad by chiliad
      What bricole piled you here, stupendous cairn?
      What artist poses the Earth écorché thus,
      Pillar […]

      More at

      (Beat that, Monckton! :-))

  13. From a dictionary:

    noctilucent adj:
    shining in the night
    said esp. of high-altitude clouds (75 to 90 km or 46 to 56 mi above the earth) that reflect twilight to the earth long after sunset or long before sunrise.

    Is NASA on the same planet as the rest of us?
    It’s Antarctica. It’s the middle of summer. It’s daytime and will be until the equinox. Then Night will fall. For Six Months. There is no night in Antarctica at present. Hasn’t been for weeks.
    So how can these clouds be noctilucent during the day?

    Bad naming.
    Very bad naming.

  14. Probably just the Government screwing with our Atmosphere with HARP. Look what they did to Southern California with their screwing up the Atmosphere this Summer! A lot of people lost their homes because of them. To say nothing of Texas Floods and Hurricanes that did so much dameage. Good Show Uncle Sam!

    [sorry, but I have to call BS on your unfounded conspiracy theory opinion. HAARP is shut down Besides, even if it WERE active, the amount of energy it releases into the atmosphere is microscopic in comparison to our daily (or even hourly) energy budget from the sun. -Anthony]

  15. This is really nothing because I saw NLC above my house in New Mexico last week. And I have the pix to prove it.

  16. The time is ripe. The V’s have return to harvest cow eyed liberals. Make Earth Great Again

  17. These are noctilucent clouds (NLCs), made of ice crystals frosting specks of “meteor smoke” in the mesosphere 83 km above the frozen continent. Here is an animation from the past week
    read again .. its a cartoon folks .. read again

  18. “edege of space”? Sounds to me like there is a firmament afterall & the earth is flat.

  19. I’m not entirely clear what it is these people claim this stuff is, but the only thing that gives me concern is that back in the 1960s Fred Hoyle, a scientist for whom I have a lot of respect (yes I know he made an error about fossil birds, but not his field) published a very good book “Ice” which looked at Ice ages etc.
    His view was that an essential component of tipping the planet into a new ice age would be the formation of diamond dust ice crystals in the high atmosphere because their high reflectivity would set off catastrophic cooling.
    I take Hoyle’s views a lot more seriously than some of the snowflake studies regularly exposed on this website. And sometime a new ice age really does threaten us, let’s hope it’s not soon.

  20. Don’t worry it’s just Algore flatulence! Since the Ice never melted as predicted by the fool Algore he is now trying to induce the ice cap melt all by himself!! 🙂

  21. I’m blaming George Bush, Dick Cheney, Halliburton, global warming, the chupacabra, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness monster. It’s a conspiracy. A vast chicken wing conspiracy.
    Please save us Al Gore!!!!

  22. That NASA isn’t blaming AGW might be a sign they are on the right path again. I’m sure nobody more relieved than NASA. Can’t you just hear old NASA saying something like human caused climate change is causing extreme up drafts lofting moisture into the edge of space. We’re all going to die unless we give communists control over the energy sector… Welcome back NASA.

    • Sun dogs are thin tropospheric clouds with ice crystals mostly oriented to reflect light light that is close to the horizon. Not at all related. (Except they both involve water.)

  23. “Must we continue to lift our eyes towards heaven; is the luminous point which we there discern of those which are quenched? The ideal is terrible to see, thus lost in the depths minute, isolated, imperceptible, shining, but surrounded by all those great black menaces monstrously massed about it; yet in no more danger than a star in the jaws of a cloud.”

    Book Seven Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

  24. NASA continues to lie about fake Moon landings, satellites and space travel, and they are especially lying about the shape of our Earth and who we really are. Antarctica is the ice ring that surrounds the circular flat, enclosed Earth.

  25. The sky, world wide, is sprayed with crap almost every day with intensity for at least 15 to 20 years. And you all are surprised?

  26. Why is this thread littered with people who have never posted before pretending to be insane?? i.e, – hollow earth, flat earth, Harp, etc?

    Looks like an orchestrated circus designed to destroy credibility of the site.
    But why on a thread about noctilucent clouds?

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