Cloud streak mystery - OPOD

Cloud Streak Mystery - Unveiling the Enigma

Have you ever looked up at the sky and been captivated by the peculiar sight of cloud streaks? These fascinating formations can leave us puzzled and curious about their origin. In this article, we will delve into the mystery behind these cloud streaks and uncover the explanation behind their intriguing appearance.

One such sighting of these enigmatic cloud streaks was captured by Jan Willem de Wit in Gouda, The Netherlands. Looking south from the town in the late morning, de Wit observed the underside of the clouds adorned with light stripes. This phenomenon caught the attention of meteorologists and atmospheric optics experts, including Peter Paul Hattinga Verschure, who eventually unraveled the mystery.

To understand the origin of these cloud streaks, it is essential to consider the geographical features of the area. The region south of Gouda is characterized by an extensive network of drainage channels that stretch up to 20km from the town. These channels play a crucial role in managing water levels in a country where more than half of the land lies below sea level.

On the day of de Wit's observation, the water in these drainage channels was exceptionally calm, with minimal wind disturbance. This created a mirror-like surface, capable of reflecting sunlight upwards onto the low cloud base. As a result, an image of the drainage channels was formed on the cloud surface, manifesting as bright stripes amidst the clouds.

To classify the type of clouds observed in this phenomenon, Ian Loxley of the Cloud Appreciation Society suggests that they are likely Cumulonimbus pannus clouds. These clouds are characterized by their ragged appearance and often form beneath towering Cumulonimbus clouds.

The interplay between sunlight, calm water surfaces, and cloud formations gives rise to these captivating cloud streaks. It serves as a reminder of how our natural environment can produce awe-inspiring and mysterious phenomena that pique our curiosity.

In conclusion, the cloud streak mystery observed by Jan Willem de Wit in Gouda, The Netherlands, has been unraveled by atmospheric optics experts. The presence of calm water surfaces in the drainage channels south of Gouda acted as mirrors, reflecting sunlight onto the low cloud base. This created an image of the channels on the cloud surface, resulting in the formation of distinct bright stripes amidst the clouds. The classification of these clouds as Cumulonimbus pannus further adds to the intrigue surrounding this phenomenon. Nature continues to surprise us with its captivating displays, leaving us in awe and fostering a sense of wonder about the world around us.

Strange Cloud Streaks ~ Jan Willem de Wit (blog) saw this peculiar sight at Gouda in The Netherlands. Looking south from the town in late morning the underside of the clouds had these light stripes. Cloud images ©Jan Willem de Wit, shown with permission

The scene had meteorologists (and myself) puzzled. Atmospheric optics expert Peter Paul Hattinga Verschure came up with the explanation...

The camera was pointing approximately southwards and the sun was 17° high 26° east of south.

The area in that direction from the town of Gouda has a great number of drainage channels running roughly in a SE-NW direction (see map). These stretch up to 20km from the town. More than half of The Netherlands is below sea level and water management and drainage is a very serious business.

The smooth water in the channels (there was almost no wind) acted as mirrors reflecting sunlight upwards onto the low cloud base to form an image of the channels on the cloud surface. These are the bright stripes.

The water channel grids to the SE of Gouda

Ian Loxley of the Cloud Appreciation Society classifies the clouds as probably Cumulonimbus pannus

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  • "Cloud streak mystery - OPOD". Atmospheric Optics. Accessed on December 10, 2023.

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