Amazing Noctilucent Clouds

Reposted from The Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Amazing Noctilucent Clouds

One of the most extraordinary and beautiful sights this time of year are the delicate noctilucent clouds that can appear after sunset and before sunrise.

Take a look at a video made by Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay weather showing the celestial show yesterday morning:

Noctilucent clouds are the highest visible clouds, located around 50 miles above the earth surface. Such clouds form when moisture is deposited on dust in the upper atmosphere, generally from meteoritic dust. Major volcanic ejections can also supply the small particles.

These cloud form in the layer of the atmosphere called the mesophere, where the temperatures are the coldest in the atmosphere. Specifically, we are talking about temperatures below approximately -185F. Midsummer is favored because paradoxically that is when the mesosphere is coldest.

NASA even has a satellite (AIM) dedicated to seeing these clouds, as illustrated by an example from June 13th below:

The first report of noctilucent clouds was in 1885 and a number of studies suggest that such clouds are getting more frequent.  

Human’s may well have contributed to this increase.  But how?  

It appears that increasing human emission of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere (see below) may be the major cause, with methane breaking down in the upper atmosphere into several components, including water vapor.  More water vapor leads to enhanced ice cloud formation in upper atmosphere.

Another example of the profound effects of human activities on the environment.

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Chris Hanley
June 20, 2020 10:47 pm

Assuming that graphic is meant to represent only human-related emissions including livestock etc. it is an example of ‘chartmanship’ by cutting the y axis at 500.
What data can possibly be available to plot the emissions back to 1000 AD?
This is a plot from the CDIAC:
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Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Chris Hanley
June 20, 2020 11:58 pm

Since it’s claimed to represent atmospheric content in ppb going back before scientific instrumental measurements, it’s more an example of Manntastic splice-manship. As such it is an illusion of knowledge, aka “making shit up”.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 21, 2020 5:48 am

The image is courtesy of “The 2 Degrees Institute”, Empowering people to keep global warming below 2° Celsius.

Yes, that bastion of scientific truth and knowledge.
Check out the hockey Schtick on their front page.

We are all doomed.
I expected more from Mr. Mass.

Reply to  yirgach
June 22, 2020 3:31 pm

Hey, no problem, all you have to do is refer to the stratospheric fossil record…

William Abbott
Reply to  Chris Hanley
June 21, 2020 5:07 am

O really? Methane in the mesosphere, transmogrified into water vapor, seasonally? If you believe that (it ain’t science). You’re seriously unserious.

The water vapor in the mesosphere which we can image even when the noctilucent are not visible comes from a flux of small comets which constantly enter the atmosphere. This small comet flux is responsible for the water on the surface of the moon and on Mercury, Mars and on the asteroids, Pluto, et al.

June 20, 2020 10:49 pm

My 2018 post on NLC may be of some interest in this context.
The post includes an extensive bibliography.

June 20, 2020 11:21 pm
Joe B
June 21, 2020 1:28 am

Right on this site, back in 2008, it was speculated that elevated level of cosmic rays could produce more noctilucent clouds.
As the sun’s decreasing levels of solar magnetic fields allows the ever present background cosmic rays to impact the planet more and more, we should expect more instances of these clouds appearing.
As per Dr. Valentina Zharkova’s work – The Heartbeat of the Sun – we should expect over 20 years of lowered solar magnetic field intensity and the corresponding increase of cosmic radiation … along with cooler, wetter weather.

Climate believer
June 21, 2020 3:39 am

LOL …lo and behold…. just underneath the article in “related”…

“Noctilucent clouds on the increase, climate change will likely be blamed”
April 10, 2014

June 21, 2020 4:01 am

I am awake before dawn every day, guess I should be out cloud watching instead of news reading! Would certainly be better for my bloody pressure.

Nick Graves
June 21, 2020 4:23 am

Reminds me of a Bob Ross painting.

Rather beautiful.

Reply to  Nick Graves
June 21, 2020 7:08 am

Happy trees!

June 21, 2020 5:04 am

NLC in 3D at spaceweather, following NLC

Samuel C Cogar
June 21, 2020 5:08 am

Excerpted from article:

the delicate noctilucent clouds that can appear after sunset and before sunrise.

From the above, it appears to me that “noctilucent clouds” and “airplane contrails” are like two peas in a pod but of different origin and altitude.

One really has no way of knowing when said “clouds or contrails” exist in the upper atmosphere UNTIL solar irradiance (Sunshine) strikes the underneath (earth side) of the water vapor and the reflected light is transmitted to a viewer(s) on the surface.

The same or similar to ….. “Red skies in the morning …., red skies in the evening.”

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
June 22, 2020 3:15 am

YUP, those clouds are really bright red and orange in color before the Sun rises in the East, ….. then they change colors after the Sun rises above the horizon.

Bruce Cobb
June 21, 2020 5:48 am

So, whatever increased greenhouse effect resulting from increased CH4, and whatever part of that increase might be due to man doesn’t matter one bit, due to noctilucent clouds being a negative feedback. Sweet. No wonder you hardly ever hear about methane anymore from the global warblers. Remember the “methane time-bomb” that was supposedly in the arctic via permafrost melting? Oops.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
June 21, 2020 8:53 pm

Yes I remember the methane bomb. It was to happen because frozen biomass was going to melt and rot. How did the frozen biomass get there?


June 21, 2020 5:55 am

The Earth’s magnetic field’s strength is also coming down and rather rapidly. This along with the reduced solar wind and solar magnetic field changes a lot of things, especially in the upper atmosphere. I don’t know how this would influence Noctilucent cloud formation, but where they are located might be a clue.

In fact the upcoming change to the Earth’s magnetic field might just become the most important input into our climate over the coming decades. I would be much more concerned about its implications than CO2 or NH4.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  rbabcock
June 23, 2020 7:07 am

Rbabcock – June 21, 2020 at 5:55 am

In fact the upcoming change to the Earth’s magnetic field might just become the most important input into our ……

…… biological needs on the planet’s surface.

If the Earth’s magnetic field continues to decay or change, and that “decay/change” is what is affecting the European Honey Bee’s biological “GPS”, then that has got to be the “cause” of Colony Collapse Disorder.

And if so, us humans are in BIG trouble..

June 21, 2020 6:54 am

NLCs peak at 83 km. The significance of this video is that its shows turbulence within NLCs. This certainly affirms my measurements of the elevation of meteor smoke by means of twilight photometry. While there is often an 83-km spike, meteor smoke can be detected much higher and lower. Detectable meteor smoke even occurs between major meteor showers. My twilight photometer is described in detail in MAKE magazine:

June 21, 2020 7:43 am

for another hypothesis regarding the cause of noctilucent clouds, follow this link.

Reply to  TedL
June 21, 2020 8:24 am

But more air pollution makes prettier sunrises and sunset! /s

Steve Keohane
June 21, 2020 9:04 am

Yup, adding one CH4 molecule per million causes radical changes in the atmosphere….

Hocus Locus
June 21, 2020 8:39 pm

What bowled us over was one late afternoon sometime around ~2003 in St. Thomas US Virgin Islands, a large surround of deep purple clouds with a clear circular center ‘lens’ directly overhead of iridescent deep and sharp rainbow colors. Like a rainbow at sunset only in blotches and it took up a quarter of the sky. This thing literally stopped traffic, people were pulled over standing next to their cars.

Second runner up, the afternoon sunset before the terrible night-time arrival of Hurricane Hugo. Between the spiral arms of hurricanes layers can evidently be quite thin and the sky prone to moments of vibrant color. The sky ran the gamut from yellow to orange to deepest pink in 15 minutes.

June 26, 2020 7:37 am

We might have to rethink the “space age high,” in galactic cosmic rays.
Looks to me like 2017-2020 made that high look small!!!

June 26, 2020 7:57 am

Compare Oulu’s graph to Bartol’s graph.
Does Oulu need to update their graph structure to reflect the new HIGHs?

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Maybe this is due to waves coming from the radiation belts?

Recent highlights from Cluster, the first 3-D magnetospheric mission

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