Hole Punch Clouds

holepunchcloud_2

Dan Gregoria, NWS San Diego, Huntington Beach, CA

A few years ago I went to a weather conference and one of the more fascinating talks was on Hole Punch Clouds.  Meteorologists know that these “holes” in the clouds are created by airplanes.  The speaker explained that the latest research shows they are created by the propellers of airplanes not engine combustion.

holepunchcloud

Courtesy: Sean Browning, KNBC Photographer, Burbank, CA

Here is how they form:

The first requirement is the clouds have to be vertically thin.  The temperatures beneath the wings of a C-130 (seen below) are 14 degrees warmer than the surrounding environment.  This temperature difference and propeller motion creates a dry punch of air falling from the sky evaporating the clouds beneath.  This is always the case but if the clouds are too thick or the plane is above 20,000 feet a hole will not occur.  This is why Hole Punch Clouds are fairly rare to see.  But when you do get to see them, like Saturday, it’s an incredible sight!

c130

If you have pictures to share, I’d love to see them.  Tweet or Facebook me @anthonynbcla

To see other hole punch clouds from Saturday, click here: Hole Punch Clouds

 

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