What Did You See? HOLE IN THE SKY


Back in February of 2015, I noticed a series of strange holes that would appear in cloud layers above my house. I took several pictures of this phenomenon and after a bit of research and the help of a friend, I found out what these holes actually are. They are called a fall streak hole, or hole punch clouds.

Cavum (cloud) A cavum[1] (also known as a fallstreak hole, hole punch cloud, punch hole cloud, skypunch, cloud canal or cloud hole) is a large gap, usually circular or elliptical, that can appear in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds. Such holes are formed when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing but the water, in a supercooled state, has not frozen yet due to the lack of ice nucleation. When ice crystals do form, a domino effect is set off due to the Bergeron process, causing the water droplets around the crystals to evaporate: this leaves a large, often circular, hole in the cloud.[2]

It is believed that the introduction of large numbers of tiny ice crystals into the cloud layer sets off this domino effect of fusion which creates the hole. The ice crystals can be formed by passing aircraft which often have a large reduction in pressure behind the wing- or propeller-tips. This cools the air very quickly, and can produce a ribbon of ice crystals trailing in the aircraft’s wake. These ice crystals find themselves surrounded by droplets, grow quickly by the Bergeron process, causing the droplets to evaporate and creating a hole with brush-like streaks of ice crystals below it. The articles by Westbrook and Davies (2010)[3] and Heymsfield et al. (2010) [4] explain the process in more detail, and show some observations of their microphysics and dynamics. Such clouds are not unique to any one geographic area and have been photographed from many places.

Because of their rarity and unusual appearance, cavums have been mistaken for or attributed to unidentified flying objects.[5]


%d bloggers like this: