Sunday, December 20, 2009

Noctilucent Clouds: New Observations Don't Fit Existing Models

Don't worry: The next post should be more interesting. ;)
"NASA Maps Night-shining Clouds" (December 18, 2009)

"A NASA satellite has created a new map of so-called 'night-shining clouds,' which form at high altitudes on Earth and glow even after the sun sets.

"These mysterious clouds, also called noctilucent clouds or Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs), appear about 50 miles (80 km) above Earth's surface during the summer of each hemisphere — from late May through late August in the north, and from late November to late February in the south.

"NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite has captured five complete polar seasons of noctilucent cloud coverage, showing that they can quickly form and disperse, and that they are highly dependent on weather systems...."

The new data doesn't line up with what meteorologists' models predicted - which is exciting, in its own way. As I've written before, observations that verify current models are great - but new data that doesn't fit tells us that there's more to discover.

Exactly what the lack of fit between the NASA findings and existing models means, we don't know. Yet.

Those noctilucent clouds are made of ice crystals, the article explains.

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