Planetary Wave Supercharges Southern Noctilucent Clouds

Posted: December 6, 2019 by oldbrew in atmosphere, Clouds, News, waves
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Unusual goings-on seen in the skies over New Zealand.

Dec. 4, 2019: An atmospheric wave nearly half as wide as Earth itself is supercharging noctilucent clouds (NLCs) in the southern hemisphere. NASA’s AIM spacecraft detected the phenomenon in this series of south polar images spanning Nov. 27th through Dec. 2nd:


“This is a clear sign of planetary wave activity,” says AIM principal investigator James Russell of Hampton University, which manages the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere mission for NASA.

Planetary waves are enormous ripples of temperature and pressure that form in Earth’s atmosphere in response to Coriolis forces. In this case, a 5-day planetary wave is boosting noctilucent clouds over Antarctica and causing them to spin outward to latitudes where NLCs are rarely seen.

On Dec. 1st, Mirko Harnisch saw the clouds from Dunedin, New Zealand. “I was enjoying the late-evening sky over the Southern Ocean just after 11 pm local time when these wispy blue-ish clouds appeared,”…

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  1. oldbrew says:

    The report concludes:
    Because the noctilucent clouds are spinning around with a 5 day period, they could return to New Zealand 5 days after Harnisch saw them–that is, on Dec. 6th. Such a forecast is very uncertain. Nevertheless, sky watchers who wish to try should look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils hugging the horizon, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.

  2. […] über Planetary Wave Supercharges Southern Noctilucent Clouds — Tallbloke’s Talkshop […]

  3. JB says:

    Looks like a Birkeland current to me.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Their ‘planetary waves’ are supposed to be Rossby waves.

  5. oldbrew says: