Beat the rush hour through cloud streets

Exotic cloud formations occur frequently in late winter.

"Cloud street" formations over the Barents Sea.
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz

Cloud streets, as seen in the NASA image above, are a particularly photogenic formation of air vapour.

They occur when cumulus clouds – the fluffy kind – are combed by prevailing winds. Each cloudy trail of rising warm air is separated by stripes of drier air, creating a set of parallel lines like a map of streets.

This event occurred over the Barents Sea, off the north coast of Norway, following a cold air outbreak, says Erik Kolstad, a researcher at Uni Research and the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research in Norway.

“What happens is that very cold and dry air from above the sea ice is transported out over the open ocean. We call such events cold air outbreaks,” says Kolstad.

“Cold air outbreaks are interesting because they are hotbeds of extreme weather.”

The image was taken by NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite, which scans the Earth’s surface as it orbits our planet every one to two days.

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