The Antarctica's noctilucent blue cloud cover, which usually appears in late November or early December, appeared a lot sooner this year.
NASA said the South Pole’s annual noctilucent, or “night-shining cloud,” arrived in mid-November, which was not expected, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
NASA said it uses the blanket of clouds “to decode the surrounding mesosphere, the atmospheric layer directly above the stratosphere.” (See video below.)
The noctilucent clouds give way to clues of the mesosphere’s “connections to other parts of the atmosphere, weather, and climate,” said NASA's Lina Trin.
“Noctilucent clouds are a relatively new phenomenon,” Gary Thomas, a professor at the University of Colorado, wrote in an article on NASA’s website back in 2003, Nature World News noted. They were first seen in 1885, about two years after the powerful eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which hurled plumes of ash as high as 80 km into Earth’s atmosphere.”
The clouds cover the Arctic in July and August, while covering the Antarctic in November and December, The Monitor noted.
“This is when the mesosphere is most humid, with water vapor wafting up from lower altitudes,” Tran explained. “Additionally, this is also when the mesosphere is the coldest place on Earth – dropping as low as minus 210 degrees Fahrenheit – due to seasonal air flow patterns.”
These night-shining clouds provide a “bluish-white light” for viewers on the ground, but in space, these clouds are more of an “intense” shade of blue.
As part of NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) project, the space agency plans to further its study on noctilucent clouds, taking a closer look at the “behavior, climate, and the weather of the mesosphere,” Nature World News noted.
The satellite which will be used for the project has been part of the AIM project since 2007.
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