Record-Setting Noctilucent Clouds

Posted: June 13, 2019 by oldbrew in Clouds, physics, solar system dynamics

Something of a mystery developing here. Open season for theories.

June 11, 2019: On June 8th and 9th, many people who have never previously heard of “noctilucent clouds” (NLCs) found themselves eagerly taking pictures of them–from moving cars, through city lights, using cell phones and iPads. “I have never seen clouds like this before!” says Tucker Shannon, who took this picture from Corvallis, Oregon:

“I heard that they may have been seeded by meteoroids,” says Shannon.

That’s correct. NLCs are Earth’s highest clouds. Seeded by meteoroids, they float at the edge of space more than 80 km above the planet’s surface. The clouds are very cold and filled with tiny ice crystals. When sunbeams hit those crystals, they glow electric-blue.

Noctilucent clouds used to be a polar phenomenon. In recent years, however, researchers have noticed their electric-blue forms creeping south. Is it climate change? Or the solar cycle? No one knows for sure.

This past weekend…

View original post 172 more words

  1. tom0mason says:


    May 31, 2019: A huge blue cloud of frosted meteor smoke is pinwheeling around the Arctic Circle. NASA’s AIM spacecraft spotted its formation on May 20th, and it has since circled the North Pole one and a half times, expanding in size more than 200-fold.

    “These are noctilucent clouds,” says Cora Randall of the AIM science team at the University of Colorado. “And they are going strong.”

    Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) in May are nothing unusual. They form every year around this time when the first wisps of summertime water vapor rise to the top of Earth’s atmosphere. Molecules of H2O adhere to specks of meteor smoke, forming ice crystals 80 km above Earth’s surface. When sunbeams hit those crystals, they glow electric-blue.

    But these NLCs are different. They’re unusually strong and congregated in a coherent spinning mass, instead of spreading as usual all across the polar cap.

    “This is most likely a sign of planetary wave activity,” says Randall.


    Also of note is that June is the best month this year for watching for daytime meteors, as ..
    “These are Arietid meteors, and they peak every year in early June as Earth passes through a debris stream linked to the unusual comet 96P/Machholz,” says professor Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario. “At their peak on June 7th, we expect our radar to detect one Arietid every 20 seconds. This makes them the 5th strongest radar shower of the year.”

    In fact, people can see daylight meteors–a few at least. The trick is to look just before dawn when the shower’s radiant is barely above the horizon and the sun is barely below.

    “The Arietids an observer would see before dawn are quite impressive as they are all Earthgrazers, skimming the atmosphere almost horizontally overhead,” notes Brown. “Earthgrazers tend to be slow and very bright.”

    Also from

  2. Damian says:

    I don’t believe the “meteor smoke” thing.
    What evidence exists for the meteor smoke apart from the clouds?

  3. hunterson7 says:

    Wow, quite a mystery.
    Cosmic dust?

  4. Curious George says:

    How about carbon dioxide?

  5. ivan says:

    So, ‘the science is settled’ and non of them have any ideas about these clouds. But then we shouldn’t be too surprised because their models don’t do clouds – and they call themselves ‘scientists’.

  6. Power Grab says:

    I don’t really buy the meteor smoke idea, either.

    When I first started reading about NLCs, they said that they were first documented in 1885, 2 years after the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.

    Does anyone have any idea about the effect (if any) on the planet’s magnetosphere and/or ionosphere of major volcanic activity?

    In other words, if there is a large volcanic eruption (or an extended series of them), do we see the magnetosphere weaken noticeably? How about the ionosphere–does it get lower?

    If I remember correctly, late in 2008 NASA released an article about how they sent up a probe to precisely locate the ionosphere, but it was 400m lower than expected? Since that was not very long after the sun’s activity began its downward slide, I figured it was connected.

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    Well, they are sort of correct. It is contributed to by Meteor Dust, because the Earth’s field drags the material down at the poles, and the Earth’s atmosphere has been retracting as it cools from the effect of the quiet Sun. NASA has had to use less energy to keep satellites in orbit and on station due to less drag from the thinning atmosphere. I’d give them a “C” for Correct….pg

  8. phil salmon says:

    Winter is coming.

  9. pochas94 says:

    Have there been more meteors lately?

  10. Power Grab says:

    @ PG:

    How about this question: Is there any similarity between meteor dust and very fine mineral dust that may be ejected high into the atmosphere from a volcano?

    I’ve read some things that make it sound like such tiny particles find their way to the poles.

  11. p.g.sharrow says:

    Meteor dust tends to be metal carbonates, while volcanic dust tends to be metal oxides. Volcanic dust would be trapped within the Troposphere and travel with the winds while Meteor dust would be moved pole-ward by magnetic fields very high up. The top of the normal cloud deck is the top of the troposphere maybe as high as 40,000 feet. Air and energy are moved by convection and conduction. Above this there is very little movement where radiation , EMF fields, is the primary movement of energy and material.

  12. stpaulchuck says:

    hey guys, if Rog on vacation or something?? I haven’t seen a fresh post since this thread went up. It’s only five days but on this blog that seems like a VERY long time with nothing new.

  13. tallbloke says:

    Chuck, I’ve just got back from working abroad to find a mouse has eaten my phone cable in an innaccessible place. Normal service will resume as soon as my internet feed is back on.

  14. stpaulchuck says:

    welcome back buddy. Sorry to hear about the phone cable. Been there done that. Not fun.

  15. hunterson7 says:

    Best wishes dealing with the rodent.
    Amazing how much damage they can inflict on stuff.
    We are dealing with a rodent setting up shop in our tool shed, and it is not fun.

  16. tom0mason says:

    From we have this charming video of some NC observations …

  17. chickenhawk says:

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  18. Power Grab says:

    @ p.g.: Thanks again for responding to my questions.

    I find my lack of training in chemistry and physics makes have trouble with fully wrapping my mind around what you have written above.

    Would you kindly point me to some “for dummies” readings that might help fill in the holes in my knowledge about those subjects?

    I have 2 business degrees, but have only minimal exposure to chemistry and physics. I’m not afraid to look up new words. My curiosity is only limited by the amount of free time I have outside a more-than-full-time job and other commitments.

    TIA 🙂

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