Aircraft hole punch and distrail cloud features over southern Lake Michigan

December 20th, 2017 |

GOES-16

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

GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images (above) revealed a number of aircraft “hole punch clouds” and cloud dissipation or “distrail” features drifting eastward across southern Lake Michigan and adjacent states on 20 December 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 (many of 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).

A good example of a hole punch cloud adjacent to a longer distrail feature was seen over far southeastern Minnesota and the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, using 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images from the MODIS Today site (below). Glaciated (ice crystal) cloud features appeared as darker shades of cyan in the false-color image.

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

A very detailed view of a hole punch cloud over Lake Michigan was provided by 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 false-color imagery at 1635 UTC, viewed using RealEarth (below).

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

===== 21 December Update =====

Another example of numerous aircraft hole punch and distrail cloud features was seen on Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images on 21 December. over northern Illinois and northern Indiana (below).

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]