Mysterious UFO-Shaped Cloud Holes Explained

6th Mar 2024
Mysterious UFO-Shaped Cloud Holes Explained

Clouds are a significant part of the Earth’s ecosystem and they scarcely receive the recognition they deserve. In actuality, they play a significant role in making the Earth’s conditions habitable. But most of the time, they exist in the periphery, rarely interesting and quickly forgotten. However, one cloud formation that catches the eye is when giant circular and elliptical holes appear without explanation. 

Many have often speculated if UFOs and other out-of-this-world phenomena fashion these enormous holes. But, sadly for one’s SCIFI imagination, a team of scientists from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) have laid these theories to rest. The holes themselves are formed via aeroplanes as they torrent through altocumulus clouds.

UFO’s or Airplanes: The History Of Cloud Holes

These cloud formations have been studied from the background for years. In fact, scientists have been theorising about their formation since 1940. More contemporary observations from NASA’s MODIS spectroradiometer onboard the Terra satellite snapped a shot of a ring-like cavum cloud cluster floating off the Gulf of Mexico in January 2024. 

Prior to NASA’s observation, however, two scientists from UCAR deduced an explanation for how these giant holes originated in 2010 and 2011. That being: “They are caused by aeroplanes moving through banks of altocumulus clouds”. Unsurprisingly, these cloud systems are not built by UFOs, rather, their creation is very humanistic, and the process is quite linear. 

Understanding How Aeroplanes Form Holes In Clouds 

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, altocumulus clouds are composed of supercooled water droplets. Interestingly, despite most water substances freezing at the point of 0 degrees Celsius, droplets in altocumulus clouds do not. In actuality, these droplets exceed temperatures of minus 15 degrees

NASA attributed the droplets’ inability to freeze to: “supercooling [which] happens when water droplets are exceptionally pure and lack small particles… around which ice crystals typically form.” Although supercooling appears to be unique, NASA said it’s a fairly common occurrence in the atmosphere.  

But, to build these otherworldly cloud formations, aeroplanes blast through the altocumulus clouds, freezing the droplets by another 20 degrees +. This is due to the way the plane’s wings and propellers disperse air – sadly, not the fuselage of a spacecraft. Once the process is finished, the sky is left permeated with cloud holes, otherwise known as cavum clouds.

How Scientists Busted The UFO Myth

Initially, UCAR consulted with several institutions to analyse many flight data, satellite observations, and weather models, NASA said. Scientists then identified the exact angle planes needed to pass through the clouds to create these annular chasms. 

A sharp angle creates a “circular cavum”, NASA said. Inversely, a shallow angle creates a “canal cloud”. Understandably, these definitions are fairly esoteric, so the image below shows what both clouds look like. 

Canal and Cavum cloud holes
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Additionally, NASA pointed out that external factors like thickness, temperature, and wind shear also affect the cavum cloud’s length. And it’s not a singular, specific plane that forges these structures, they can all do it. As a result, UCAR demonstrated that Earthly aircraft form these enigmatic holes, not unidentifiable objects. 

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