All Weather News

Hole Punch Clouds: A Rare But Great Sight

18 Mar 2015, 2:42 pm

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If you happened to stare up at the clouds on Wednesday in parts of the Ohio River valley and even into the Carolinas, it might’ve looked like Mother Nature punched a hole through a cloud.

That’s right: hole punch clouds, sometimes known as fallstreak clouds, popped up in parts of Kentucky and North Carolina on Wednesday, and you, our fine viewers and readers, alertly sent us your pictures of them, wondering what exactly they were and how they got there.

So, here goes.

There are different ways for them to form, but the most common and eye-catching type is the fallstreak, which forms as a result of a plane flying through mid-to-high level clouds. Those clouds are comprised of tiny water droplets, but when planes fly through them, they leave behind a contrail of ice crystals, and those ice droplets fall and create a hole in the sky.

But sometimes, as the pictures you can see in Kentucky above show, hole punch clouds simply and rather randomly form that way from a simple, unexplained and highly localized sinking of the air. Sinking air stabilizes air and dissuades air from rising and ultimately condensing into clouds.

To this nerdy meteorologist, they’re some of the coolest clouds out there, because they’re essentially microcosms for grander meteorological principles. Sinking air typically leads to high pressure and sunny, calm conditions at the surface, while rising air promotes low pressure (less weight on the surface of the earth) and rising air, condensing into clouds and precipitation.

Hope you enjoyed your Meteorology 101 lesson of the day!

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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