Most of us prefer our winter roads free of ice, but one kind of road depends on it: a cloud street. Such streets formed over the Bering Sea in early January 2012, thanks to snow and ice blanketing the nearby land, and sea ice clinging to the shore. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of the cloud streets on January 4, 2012.
Air blowing over frigid ice then warmer ocean water can lead to the development of parallel cylinders of spinning air. Above the upward cycle of these cylinders (rising air), small clouds form. Along the downward cycle (descending air), skies are clear. The resulting cloud formations resemble streets.
This image shows that some of the cloud streets begin over the sea ice, but most of the clouds hover over the open ocean water. These streets are not perfectly straight, but curve to the east and west after passing over the sea ice. By lining up along the prevailing wind direction, the tiny clouds comprising the streets indicate the wind patterns around the time of their formation.
NASA images courtesy LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.
Date: January 4, 2012
Owner: NASA on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons