Aircraft “hole punch” clouds over Wisconsin

November 10th, 2017 |

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, top) and Near-Infrared

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm, bottom), with surface station identifiers plotted in yellow [click to play MP4 animation]

* GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational and are undergoing testing *

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images (above) revealed a number of aircraft “hole punch” clouds over western Wisconsin on the morning of 10 November 2017.  These cloud features were caused by aircraft that were either ascending or descending through a layer of cloud composed of supercooled water droplets — cooling from wake turbulence (reference) and/or particles from the jet engine exhaust acting as ice condensation nuclei cause the small supercooled water droplets to turn into larger ice crystals (which then often fall from the cloud layer, creating “fall streak holes“). The darker gray appearance of the hole punch clouds on 1.61 µm images confirms that the features were composed of ice crystals (since ice is a strong absorber of radiation at that wavelength).

One isolated  hole punch cloud was also seen in 250-meter resolution Terra MODIS false-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) imagery (source) over central Wisconsin around 16:52 UTC (below). In this type of RGB image (created using MODIS Bands 7/2/1), ice crystal clouds appear as shades of cyan, in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds which appear as shades of white. With the low November sun angle, this cloud deck was casting a long shadow to the north — and sunlight filtering through the hole punch feature was brightening up a spot in the cloud shadow on the ground.

Terra MODIS false-color images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS false-color image [click to enlarge]

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