But even after the ash dispersed, the clouds persisted.
Today's clouds come from space itself, "seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors," as NASA spokesperson Lina Tran explained on the agency's website. Each day tiny bits of debris from comets and asteroids are swept into the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Those bits of shooting stars could help "seed" the noctilucent clouds, by gathering moisture around the dust particle. The clouds form when the upper parts of the atmosphere are coldest and wettest.
In both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the summer is when it's most humid "with water vapor wafting up from lower altitudes," and it is also, perhaps counterintuitively, when that part of the atmosphere "is the coldest place on earth — dropping as low as minus 210 Fahrenheit — due to seasonal air flow patterns," Tran writes. For those hoping to see them from the Northern Hemisphere, they'll have to wait until next summer, but those who do not live in the Arctic are in luck. "In recent years [noctilucent clouds] have intensified and spread," explained a 2013 NASA post about the science behind the clouds. "When noctilucent clouds first appeared in the 19th Century, you had to travel to polar regions to see them."
"Since the turn of the century, however, they have been sighted as close to the equator as Colorado and Utah."
AIM Flight Operations Team Honored with NASA's Group Achievement Award
Date: November 9, 2016 View Details
Data from NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft shows the sky over Antarctica is glowing electric blue due to the start of noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud season in the Southern Hemisphere. This data was collected from Nov. 17-28, 2016.
Credits: NASA/HU/VT/CU-LASP/AIM/Joy Ng, producer
Noctilucent Clouds Appear over Antartica Date: November, 27, 2016
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This just in from NASA's AIM spacecraft: The sky above Antarctica is glowing electric blue. A ring of bright noctilucent clouds (NLCs) has formed around the South Pole, shown here in a Nov. 24th image taken by the spacecraft's Cloud Imaging and Particle Size (CIPS) Instrument:
NLCs are Earth's highest clouds. They form more than 80 km above Earth's surface. Indeed, they are a mixture of Earth and space: Wisps of summertime water vapor rising from the planet below wrap themselves around meteoroids, forming tiny crystals of ice. Emphasis on summertime; NLCs appear on the eve of summer in both hemispheres.
There is growing evidence that noctilucent clouds are boosted by climate change. In recent years they have been sighted at lower latitudes than ever before, and they often get started in earlier months as well.
"This season started on Nov. 17th, and is tied with 2013 for the earliest southern hemisphere season in the CIPS data record," says Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team at the University of Colorado. "This was not at all a surprise: The southern hemisphere polar stratospheric winds switched to their summer-like state quite early this year."
Why is a Blue Cloud Appearing over Antartica? Date: December 3, 2016
The Christian Science Monitor
By Christina Beck, Staff Read Full Article
Noctilucent, or night-glowing, clouds appear over the South Pole each year. This year they arrived much earlier than usual, puzzling scientists.
Keith Vanderlinde/National Science Foundation/Handout/Reuters/File
The South Pole’s special blanket of clouds usually rolls in during late November and early December, just in time to give the Southern Hemisphere its very own light show for the holidays.
But this year, NASA says that the South Pole’s annual noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud show arrived much sooner than expected, in mid-November.
The noctilucent clouds provide clues to the mesosphere's "connections to other parts of the atmosphere, weather, and climate," she wrote. They are summer phenomena, appearing above the Arctic in July and August and above the Antarctic in November and December.
“This is when the mesosphere is most humid, with water vapor wafting up from lower altitudes. Additionally, this is also when the mesosphere is the coldest place on Earth – dropping as low as minus 210 degrees Fahrenheit – due to seasonal air flow patterns,” she explained. The mesosphere separates Earth's atmosphere from space, encircling the planet about 50 miles above the surface. This sets its noctilucent clouds apart, literally, from other types of clouds, which occur at far lower altitudes. Not only are clouds in the mesosphere incredibly cold, they are also incredibly dry – about a million times dryer than the Sahara Desert, according to noctilucent cloud expert Gary Thomas.
The noctilucent clouds are best known for their vivid color – they appear to be wispy and shining from the ground, and bright blue from space. While most clouds are made of droplets of water or ice clustered around grains of ordinary dust, noctilucent clouds are seeded by the fine debris left behind by disintegrating meteors, and they "glow a bright, shocking blue when they reflect sunlight," said Ms. Tran.
These mysterious clouds were first spotted in 1885, just a few years after a massive eruption by the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa. At first, cloud observers thought that they might be a result of that explosion, which also caused particularly beautiful sunsets around the world. Yet the clouds remained after the world’s sunsets returned to normal, dispelling that theory.
Later, scientists argued that the clouds are a signal of global warming, while others said they came from space dust remnants in the atmosphere, the theory that NASA now supports.
NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft was sent into orbit in 2007 to observe the phenomenon. In the decade since then, scientists have observed the clouds forming earlier and earlier each year.
This year, the clouds began to form on November 17, which means that this year is tied for the earliest that the phenomenon has been spotted.
According to researchers, noctilucent clouds have both intensified and spread in recent years.
"When noctilucent clouds first appeared in the 19th Century, you had to travel to polar regions to see them," according to a 2013 NASA post. "Since the turn of the century, however, they have been sighted as close to the equator as Colorado and Utah."
Night-Shining Clouds over Antartica Date: November 27, 2016
EarthSky Read Full Article The AIM spacecraft has spotted noctilucent clouds – aka night-shining clouds – above Earth’s southernmost continent. The season for them started early this year!
A ring of bright noctilucent clouds – sometimes called “night-shining” clouds – has formed around the South Pole. Image taken November 24, 2016 by the AIM spacecraft.
Spaceweather.com is reporting an early-season display of noctilucent clouds above Antarctica. These clouds are seasonal, and the season for Earth’s southerly latitudes typically comes a bit later than this. Data from the AIM spacecraft – whose purpose is the study of these clouds – shows that this 2016 season began as early as November 17. Spaceweather.com explained: This just in from NASA’s AIM spacecraft: The sky above Antarctica is glowing electric blue. A ring of bright noctilucent clouds (NLCs) has formed around the South Pole, shown here in a November 24 image taken by [AIM]’s Cloud Imaging and Particle Size (CIPS) Instrument.
NLCs are Earth’s highest clouds. They form more than 80 km [60 miles] above Earth’s surface. Indeed, they are a mixture of Earth and space. Wisps of summertime water vapor rising from the planet below wrap themselves around meteoroids, forming tiny crystals of ice. Emphasis on summertime; NLCs appear on the eve of summer in both hemispheres.
Why do we see these clouds shining in the the night sky? Simply because they are so high up; the sun continues shining on them even after it has set on our part of Earth.
Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team at the University of Colorado, said: This season … is tied with 2013 for the earliest Southern Hemisphere season in the CIPS data record. This was not at all a surprise: The Southern Hemisphere polar stratospheric winds switched to their summer-like state quite early this year.
Matt Robinson captured the image above. He saw this grand display of electric-blue noctilucent clouds in July 2014, over Sunderland, UK.
Read more: The secrets of night-shining clouds
By the way, we at EarthSky see many more photos of noctilucent clouds from northerly latitudes than southerly latitudes, because more EarthSky community members (and more people generally) live at those latitudes.
Noctilucent clouds shine at night because – even after the sun has set – sunlight still illuminates these very high-altitude clouds.
Bottom line: November 24, 2016 image from the AIM spacecraft showing noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds over Antarctica.
Strange, Electric Blue Clouds have Appeared over Antartica Way Earlier than Expected Date: December 5, 2016
Science Alert Read Full Article
Each year, an eerie mass of bright blue clouds descends over Antarctica, as sunlight is reflected though dense layers of ice crystals to create a brilliant, glowing haze that can be seen from space.
But according to new images recorded by NASA, those otherworldly clouds made their annual appearance way earlier than expected this year, and scientists are struggling to explain why we got a two-week head-start on the South Pole's 'night-shining' event.
The phenomenon that causes noctilucent - or night-shining - clouds to appear over the South Pole each year is not fully understood, but it appears to be connected to seasonal changes taking place at lower altitudes - and possibly even that catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa back in 1883.
NASA tracks the movements of noctilucent clouds using their AIM (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere) spacecraft, and while they're seen in both the southern and northern hemispheres, their electric blue glow only appears over Antarctica through the months of November and December.
Since AIM has been tracking their movements, we’ve seen these clouds begin their formation over the South Pole in late November or early December.
But this year, they arrived on November 17 - the earliest noctilucent cloud start date on record, which scientists have only ever seen once before.
"This year, AIM saw the start of noctilucent cloud season on 17 November 2016 - tying with the earliest start yet in the AIM record of the Southern Hemisphere," NASA reports.
"Scientists say this corresponds to an earlier seasonal change at lower altitudes. Winter to summer changes in the Antarctic lower atmosphere sparked a complex series of responses throughout the atmosphere - one of which is an earlier noctilucent cloud season."
Noctilucent clouds are Earth's highest clouds, located 80 km above the planet’s surface in an atmospheric layer called the mesosphere, which sits between the stratosphere and the thermosphere.
They’re thought to be seeded by the frozen dust of disintegrating meteors, which means they’re primarily made up of ice crystals. When sunlight is scattered by these crystals, it creates a brilliant blue glow above Earth that astronauts go nuts over.
Noctilucent clouds seen over Vantaa in Finland in 2009. Credit: Mika-Pekka Markkanen
One of the strangest things about these clouds is that they’re a fairly new natural phenomenon, and no one’s quite sure why they suddenly began their annual appearance in 1885. Maybe it had something to do with one of the most deadly volcanic eruptions in human history?
"Noctilucent clouds are a relatively new phenomenon," Gary Thomas, a professor at the University of Colorado who studies Noctilucent clouds, told Tony Phillips at NASA. They were first seen in 1885, Phillips reports, two years after the powerful eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which deposited vast plumes of ash as high as 80 km into Earth's atmosphere - right where noctilucent clouds began to form. The ash has since dissipated, but the clouds have remained. "It's puzzling," said Thomas. "Noctilucent clouds have not only persist ed, but also spread."
At this stage, no one's sure why the South Pole's night-shining clouds appeared so early this year, or what it could signal about Earth's atmosphere.
In the past, NASA has suggested that noctilucent clouds could be the "canary in the coal mine" for methane accumulation in the atmosphere, but this has yet to be proven. But what we do know is that these things are spreading. "In recent years [noctilucent clouds] have intensified and spread," NASA reported back in 2013. "When noctilucent clouds first appeared in the 19th Century, you had to travel to polar regions to see them. Since the turn of the century, however, they have been sighted as close to the equator as Colorado and Utah."
Antartica's Electric-blue Clouds (YouTube) Date: December 5, 2016
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Each year, Antarctica gets a visit from clouds that shine a brilliant, electric blue. These clouds, called noctilucent clouds, light up the sky during the summer time for the South Pole. NASA recently released footage from its AIM spacecraft, which observed the first noctilucent clouds of the season on November 17.
The Electric Blue Polar Cloud Season Came Early This Year Date: December 2, 2016
National Public Radio View Full Article
Each year, a glowing mass of clouds forms over the South Pole, high in the atmosphere, trapped between Earth and space. From the ground they look wispy and shimmery, like a blue-white aurora borealis. From space, they look like an electric-blue gossamer haze.
Noctilucent clouds as viewed from the International Space Station in 2003. NASA/ISS/Don Pettit
Scientists call them noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds, and this year the noctilucent cloud season came early to the Southern Hemisphere. In the decade since NASA launched a satellite that can take images of the ice crystals that make up such clouds, the clouds have usually started showing up over the South Pole in late November or early December.
Composite satellite images posted on NASA's website today show Antarctica under noctilucent cloud cover beginning Nov. 17 this year, tying it with the earliest start measured.
The GIF above shows the clouds forming between Nov. 17 and Nov. 28, as captured by NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft, which studies how ice crystals form in the dry upper reaches of the Earth-space divide.
"Noctilucent clouds are a relatively new phenomenon," Gary Thomas, a professor at the University of Colorado, said in a NASA article about the spacecraft's mission shortly after it launched. "'They were first seen in 1885,' about two years after the powerful eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which hurled plumes of ash as high as 80 km into Earth's atmosphere," the article continues.
NASA's AIM Observes Early Noctilucent Ice Clouds Over Antartica
Date: December 2, 2016
Science Magazine online Read Full Article
Data from NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft shows the sky over Antarctica is glowing electric blue due to the start of noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud season in the Southern Hemisphere – and an early one at that. Noctilucent clouds are Earth's highest clouds, sandwiched between Earth and space 50 miles above the ground in a layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere. Seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors, these clouds of ice crystals glow a bright, shocking blue when they reflect sunlight.
AIM studies noctilucent clouds in order to better understand the mesosphere, and its connections to other parts of the atmosphere, weather and climate. We observe them seasonally, during summer in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. This is when the mesosphere is most humid, with water vapor wafting up from lower altitudes. Additionally, this is also when the mesosphere is the coldest place on Earth – dropping as low as minus 210 degrees Fahrenheit – due to seasonal air flow patterns.
This year, AIM saw the start of noctilucent cloud season on Nov. 17, 2016 – tying with the earliest start yet in the AIM record of the Southern Hemisphere. Scientists say this corresponds to an earlier seasonal change at lower altitudes. Winter to summer changes in the Antarctic lower atmosphere sparked a complex series of responses throughout the atmosphere – one of which is an earlier noctilucent cloud season. In the Southern Hemisphere, AIM has observed seasons beginning anywhere from Nov. 17 to Dec. 16.
Since its 2007 launch, AIM data has shown us that changes in one region of the atmosphere can effect responses in another distinct, and sometimes distant, region. Scientists call these relationships atmospheric teleconnections. Now, due to natural precession, the spacecraft's orbit is evolving, allowing the measurement of atmospheric gravity waves that could be contributing to the teleconnections.
Earliest Ever Arrival of Night Shining/Noctilucent Clouds Mark Onset of Summer in Antarctica, NASA's AIM Spacecraft Confirms Date: December 3, 2016
Science World Report Read Full Article
The night shining season started on Nov. 17, 2016, which marks its earliest ever arrival. The causes and climatological outcomes of this are being studied now.
2016 recorded the earliest arrival ever of the noctilucent clouds in the Antarctica. The data obtained from NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in Mesosphere spacecraft (AIM) confirmed the start of night shining cloud season earlier this week.
The spacecraft also sent images of the Antarctic sky, as seen from space. The sky radiated electric blue color when sunlight is reflected off the ice crystals in the clouds. Experts are trying to link the early onset of night shining to early arrival of summer in the Antarctica, which is a matter of concern for climatologists and NASA.
Night shining clouds or noctilucent clouds are the highest, wettest and coldest clouds of Earth. They are literally sandwiched in between the atmospheric layers and space, lying at around 50 miles above the Earth's surface in the mesosphere.
As a general phenomenon, they are formed at the onset of summer in both Northern and Southern hemispheres. The water vapors rising from below are deposited around the dust and micro-debris coming from the space from meteors and shooting stars and ice crystals are formed. These ice crystals shine when sunlight falls on them and glow.
This glow can be easily observed from the space, when the sky over Antarctica turns luminescent with electric blue color. NASA notified the earliest ever onset of night shining cloud season on Dec. 2, 2016. The composite satellite images showed that the sky over Antarctica turned electric blue on Nov. 17, 2016, which is earliest since the AIM spacecraft was launched.
Usually, night shining season starts in late November or early December. But this year, experts are proposing the change in pattern may be a result of seasonal changes at lower altitudes in Antarctica.
As per a article recently published in Phys.org, changes in the winter to summer transition in the lower atmosphere triggered a whole range of modifications in the temperature and moisture levels in the upper atmosphere. This phenomenon is referred to as the "atmospheric teleconnection."
Scientists are yet to confirm the cause of this change in pattern of night shining clouds, but there are speculations that this may be as a result of global warming. Additionally, the impact of this change on the melting of Antarctic polar ice cap is still ambiguous.
In an attempt to decipher the underlying causes and impacts of atmospheric teleconnections, the NASA AIM spacecraft started measuring the atmospheric gravity waves, which may be highly helpful in providing information regarding upper atmospheric changes and their lower atmospheric outcomes.
NASA's camera captures noctilucent clouds, or blue clouds, over Antarctica.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Blue clouds, also known as night-shining clouds or Noctilucent clouds, are a normal occurrence that happens during late November or early December, particularly in Antarctica. Yet, surprisingly, the appearance of these blue clouds came a bit early, making it a new phenomenon, according to NASA.
“Noctilucent clouds are a relatively new phenomenon. They were first seen in 1885,’ about two years after the powerful eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which hurled plumes of ash as high as 80 km into Earth’s atmosphere,” stated Professor Gary Thomas from the University of Colorado in his article written in 2003 on NASA’s website.
These noctilucent clouds are wispy clouds that shine a bluish-white light from viewers on the ground. But up in space, these clouds portray an intense shade of blue. Approximately a decade ago, a satellite by NASA snapped photos of the ice crystals which had formed these clouds. Based on the data from then-taken photos, the phenomenon of blue clouds had appeared earlier than expected.
The first sighting of the blue clouds was recorded in the middle of November. Images shown on NASA’s website state that the photos of the noctilucent clouds captured in Antarctica were dated November 17 and November 28.
Under NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM), the space agency hopes to study the noctilucent clouds to better understand the behaviour, climate, and the weather of the mesosphere. The satellite under the AIM project was launched back in 2007 and is the ninetieth NASA exploration and research mission which is part of the Small Explorer Program (SMEX)
As where noctilucent clouds are concerned, the early appearance of these blue clouds is said to be caused by the presence of greenhouse gases. On this note, scientists believe that the clouds are a signal of global warming. On the other hand, a few claim that these blue clouds are simply space dust remnants in the atmosphere, which is one theory NASA supports.