Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 9:00 am
Cold coastal winds blowing off of Greenland and across the Norwegian Sea created a spectacular display of “cloud streets” in mid-March 2016. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the scene on March 17.
The long, parallel bands of cumulus clouds known as “cloud streets” form when cold air blows over warmer water and a warmer air layer (temperature inversion) rests over the top of both. The water gives up heat and moisture to the cold air above, and the columns of heated air rise up through the atmosphere. When these rising thermals hit the thermal inversion, they roll over and loop back on themselves, creating parallel cylinders of rotating air. As this happens, the moisture cools and condenses, forming rows of cloud. These cloud streets line up parallel to the direction of the prevailing wind.