How to See Rare “Noctilucent” Clouds Thanks to Climate Change

Image for article titled How to See Rare 'Night-Shining' clouds thanks to climate change

photo: Anna Anika (Shutterstock)

The age of the noctilucent cloud is upon us. Noctilucent clouds are historically rare, beautiful formations of shimmering ice crystals that hang in the upper atmosphere and have only been visible in northern parts of the world for years past. However, they have been steadily creeping south for four decades, so this could be the year when you can see this unique phenomenon from your backyard.

Although noctilucent clouds are often present in the upper atmosphere, they are not usually visible unless atmospheric conditions are just right. Traditionally, the peak season for seeing these swirling nocturnal clouds is late June through late July, and while they were previously only visible in the United States in Alaska and the northernmost parts of the lower 48, global warming is making “visible NLCs.” ” More often in more places. Yay?

What are noctilucent clouds?

Noctilucent clouds, or NLCs, first observed in 1885, are clouds of ice that form at the edge of space between 47 and 53 miles above the ground. They usually appear as swirls of blue or white that are only visible during the darkest hours of summer. NLCs are most visible between the 50th and 60th parallels, but recently they have been steadily brightening, moving as far south as Los Angeles, where they are moving south People reported seeing them in 2019.

Why are noctilucent clouds more visible now?

Noctilucent clouds are invisible most of the time—the sky is too bright to see light reflecting off them during the day. But in the middle of the night, the lower part of the atmosphere lies in Earth’s shadow, while light shines on the upper atmosphere.

Small changes in the atmosphere can significantly alter these clouds. Global warming has added more water vapor to the atmosphere, and that has resulted in larger noctilucent clouds visible over a larger area of ​​the planet. As the world warms, we should see more noctilucent clouds. (Again, yay?)

As you can see noctilucent clouds this summer

Noctilucent clouds are only visible when the sky is clear of lower clouds and during the darkest hours of the night. To see them, go outside around midnight and face north. The best view requires an unobstructed, horizon-wide north view. The view is spectacular with the naked eye, but you might want binoculars to see the intricacy of these cloud structures up close.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see a few white or gold streaks relatively low on the horizon. If you get Yes, really With any luck, the cloudlets will grow and change color until electric blue, gold, and silver swirls, curls, and billows stretch across the sky.

We’re in the mid-June to July peak NLC season right now, but which nights the formations might occur can’t be predicted more than a few hours in advance. In the past, you had to get out and hope every night, but skygazers around the world are using technology to share NLC information and alert each other to the appearance of these elusive cloud formations.

Subscribe to these social media groups for advance news of noctilucent clouds

Anyone east of you will see the NLCs first, and fans of the phenomenon will be only too happy to let you know it’s coming. You can subscribe to them Noctilucent cloud alerts Twitter feed, where users upload pictures of events and send the message; Join one similar group on Facebook; or follow #noctilucent chirp or instagram. I suppose all these feeds will go absolutely insane when the noctilucent clouds appear. We hope that this summer we all get a chance to see this strange, wondrous phenomenon.