Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Weather Mysteries: The Moscow Halo Cloud

The strange, shining cloud that was sighted above Moscow caused a lot of curiosity and some concern but what exactly could have caused it?

A strange cloud with an unusual shape was spotted in the skies above Moscow, Russia. This phenomenon has been dubbed a ‘halo cloud’ for its similarity in appearance to that of a halo. This halo is kind of big however. Big both in size and in the amount of attention it has received.

Described as everything from a UFO to a sign of the apocalypse, the cloud has stirred admiration, awe and curiosity worldwide. What are the explanations for this phenomenon?

It’s said by some to be meteorological in origin, like the Aurora Borealis and ball lightning (luminous, moving balls which have been observed during thunderstorms). Here are some weather facts to help you draw your own conclusion.

  • The sky gets brighter around clouds. Over several years, satellites have measured halos around clouds, which extend as far as 9 miles away from the clouds.
  • Clouds behave like mirrors in the sky. They reflect sunlight and create a halo effect around them.
  • Clouds actually cool the earth by reflecting solar energy back into space. Even when the sky appears to be cloudless, particles in the sky are still present, reflecting energy back into the sky.
  • Sometimes, large circular gaps appear in clouds. These gaps are called fallstreak holes. They occur in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds.
Fallstreak holes are formed when the water temperature in a cloud is just approaching freezing. There is a gorgeous picture of a fallstreak hole on Jpgmag. The picture was taken by David Lee Tiller. Kristi83 also has a great picture on Flickr!

When the halo cloud appeared, there was atmospheric interference caused by cold air from the Arctic region. Several cold fronts had also passed through Moscow around that time.

So, what do you think? Whatever the explanation is, the halo cloud is really something to see! If you enjoy looking at phenomena such as eclipses and the like, make sure you look at this one.

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