Mystery of Hole Punch Clouds Explained

New research from the National Center for Atmospheric Research has solved the mystery of so-called hole punch clouds. As turboprop and jet aircraft climb or descend under certain atmospheric conditions, they can inadvertently seed mid-level clouds and cause narrow bands of snow or rain to develop and fall to the ground.

“Any time aircraft fly through these specific conditions, they are altering the clouds in a way that can result in enhanced precipitation nearby.” — Andrew Heymsfield, NCAR scientist

Dr. Heymsfield flew through a hole punched cloud and realized that the air is forced back as a plane flies through it and cools rapidly, forming ice crystals. This can lead to bands of airplane-induces snow under the right conditions.

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