Noctilucent clouds grace the morning sky. Here’s what they are


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Have you been seeing photos and videos of noctilucent clouds in the last few days?

Well, this is the time of the season for noctilucent clouds to make an appearance overhead. Noctilucent clouds, which are also known as night-shining clouds, appear right around the sunrise or sunset around early summer. These clouds stand alone because they’re much higher in the atmosphere than any other cloud that you may see on a consistent basis.

These clouds are way up in the mesosphere and the base of the clouds is around 200,000 feet. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the catalog, composed of tiny ice crystals. Check out the tweet from morning meteorologist Kelley Bayern on Tuesday morning. What a stunning view.

These clouds are not only rare, but they have a long list of fascinating traits to them. Because they are so high in the atmosphere and are made of ice crystals, they tend to give off a blue tint. It is almost as if they come off as an electric blue in the sky. Additionally, because they are so high in the atmosphere, they appear when it’s just about dark or right when we transition to a sunrise because they are still able to reflect the sun at night or the first in the morning.

Clouds form because of water vapor, particles (dust) and cold temperatures. Noctilucent clouds are considered to use particles from meteors or smoke. There is usually not a lot of moisture at that level of the atmosphere, which makes the process of noctilucent clouds even that more difficult. According to NASA, “Noctilucent clouds were first noticed in the mid-19th century after the eruption of super-volcano Krakatoa. Volcanic ash spread through the atmosphere, painting vivid sunsets that mesmerized observers all around the world.  That was when the NLCs appeared. At first people thought they must be some side-effect of the volcano, but long after Krakatoa’s ash settled the noctilucent clouds remained”.

Below is a series of images from NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft, which captured the first noctilucent clouds of the season back in May for the arctic region.

If you’re up a little late or maybe you’re an early bird, now is the time to step outside and look up. Enjoy some of the mesmerizing noctilucent clouds that we are fortunate to see around the Pacific Northwest.

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