Noctilucent Clouds Outburst reported - Northern Hemisphere


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It seems both scientists and the common man alike are noticing the changes in the sky. I posted a few pictures here the other day of other peoples photographs of them spotted round the UK,24332.msg501178.html#msg501178

[i checked the forum and and haven't seen this posted yet]

Noctilucent clouds outburst reported

Posted by Adonai on July 04, 2014 in categories Clouds, Editors' picks

Sky watchers in Europe are reporting an outburst of bright noctilucent clouds (NLCs). The display began at sunset on July 3rd, filling northern horizons with electric-blue ripples, swirls, and tendrils of light.

Morten Ross sent this picture to from Sandbukta, Norway:

Author Morten Ross on July 4, 2014 @ Sandbukta, south of Oslo, Norway. Image via SpaceWeather

"An incredibly bright and widespread display - from northern horizon to zenith!" says Ross. "This is only the third night of July and its already much better than last year." Similar reports have come from France, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, England and Belgium.

Although most of the reports so far have come from Europe, the nights ahead could bring NLCs to North America as well.

More NLC images: SpaceWeather's Realtime NLC Photo Gallery
Noctilucent clouds

Night clouds or noctilucent clouds are tenuous cloud-like phenomena that are the "ragged edge" of a much brighter and pervasive polar cloud layer called polar mesospheric clouds in the upper atmosphere, visible in a deep twilight. They are made of crystals of water ice. Noctilucent roughly means night shining in Latin. They are most commonly observed in the summer months at latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the equator. They can only be observed when the Sun is below the horizon.

They are the highest clouds in Earth's atmosphere, located in the mesosphere at altitudes of around 76 to 85 kilometres (47 to 53 mi). They are normally too faint to be seen, and are visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth's shadow. Noctilucent clouds are not fully understood and are a recently discovered meteorological phenomenon; there is no record of their observation before 1885.

Noctilucent clouds are first known to have been observed in 1885, two years after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. It remains unclear whether their appearance had anything to do with the volcano eruption, or whether their discovery was due to more people observing the spectacular sunsets caused by the volcanic debris in the atmosphere. Studies have shown that noctilucent clouds are not caused solely by volcanic activity, although dust and water vapour could be injected into the upper atmosphere by eruptions and contribute to their formation.

There is evidence that the relatively recent appearance of noctilucent clouds, and their gradual increase, may be linked to climate change. The author of this study, atmospheric scientist Gary Thomas of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado has pointed out that the first sightings coincide with both Krakatoa and the nascent Industrial Revolution, and they have become more widespread and frequent throughout the twentieth century, including an uptick between 1964 and 1986.


"Noctilucent clouds as possible indicators of global change in the mesosphere"
- G.E. Thomasa, J. Oliverob - ScienceDirect - Elsevier - Advances in Space Research - DOI: 10.1016/S0273-1177(01)80021-1

Featured image: Author Morten Ross on July 4, 2014 @ Sandbukta, south of Oslo, Norway. Image via SpaceWeather

Space Weather News for July 3, 2014

NOCTILUCENT OUTBURST: For the past two nights, observers in many European countries have seen bright electric-blue noctilucent clouds after sunset. The display on July 3rd appears to be the best of the year so far, and would seem to herald even more widespread sightings in the nights ahead, not only in Europe but also in North America. For pictures and observing tips, please visit

Edit: formatting
The UK Metoffice published a nice photo on
It was taken on July 6 in Portobello, which apparently is near Edinburg _,_Edinburgh
Noctilucent Clouds (One Photo of Three) Europe
Taken by Tamás Csabala on July 2, 2017 @ Debrad, Slovakia
These were the most beautiful NLCs I have ever seen. North Northeast sky at 3:30 am CEST (1:30 UTC) in Debrad, Slovakia.
Nikon D300s & Nikkor 18-55 lens 1/3s exposure
From: -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids

A MYSTERY IN THE MESOSPHERE: This summer, something strange has been happening in the mesosphere. The mesosphere is a layer of the atmosphere so high that it almost touches space. In the rarefied air 83 km above Earth's surface, summertime wisps of water vapor wrap themselves around specks of meteor smoke. The resulting swarms of ice crystals form noctilucent clouds (NLCs), which can be seen glowing in the night sky at high latitudes.

And, no, that's not the strange thing.

Northern sky watchers have grown accustomed to seeing these clouds in recent years. They form in May, intensify in June, and ultimately fade in July and August. This year, however, something different happened. Instead of fading in late July, the clouds exploded with unusual luminosity. Kairo Kiitsak observed this outburst on July 26th from Simuna, Estonia:

"It was a mind-blowing display," says Kiitsak. "The clouds were visible for much of the night, rippling brightly for at least 3 hours."

Other observers saw similar displays in July and then, in August, the clouds persisted. During the first half of August 2018, reports of NLCs to have tripled compared to the same period in 2017. The clouds refuse to go away.

Researchers at the University of Colorado may have figured out why. "There has been an unexpected surge of water vapor in the mesosphere," says Lynn Harvey of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). This plot, which Harvey prepared using data from NASA's satellite-based Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument, shows that the days of late July and August 2018 have been the wettest in the mesosphere for the past 11 years:


"July went out like a lion!" says Harvey.

In addition to being extra wet, the mesosphere has also been a bit colder than usual, according to MLS data. The combination of wet and cold has created favorable conditions for icy noctilucent clouds.

Harvey and her colleagues are still working to understand how the extra water got up there. One possibility involves planetary wave activity in the southern hemisphere which can, ironically, boost the upwelling of water vapor tens of thousands of miles away in the north. The phenomenon could also be linked to solar minimum, now underway. It is notable that the coldest and wettest years in the mesosphere prior to 2018 were 2008-2009–the previous minimum of the 11-year solar cycle.

Stay tuned for updates and, meanwhile, be alert for NLCs.

As I was looking for the origin of one of the pictures I came across this article claiming that increased levels of methane in the atmosphere may contribute to the formation of noctilucent clouds:
Inside the meteor smoke zone, at a height of 83 km, so-called noctilucent clouds can occur, describes a NASA article. Meteor dust is the nucleating agent around which such clouds form. Specks of meteor smoke act as gathering points where water molecules can assemble themselves and grow into ice crystals to sizes ranging from 20 to 70 nanometers.

While noctilucent clouds appear most often at Arctic latitudes, they have been sighted in recent years as far south as Colorado, Utah and Nebraska. Question is: Why are the clouds brightening and spreading?

Prof. James Russell of Hampton University believes that more in methane in the atmosphere is causing this. Russell explains: "When methane makes its way into the upper atmosphere, it is oxidized by a complex series of reactions to form water vapor. This extra water vapor is then available to grow ice crystals for noctilucent clouds."

In conclusion, this greater occurrence of noctilucent clouds is an indication that more methane is escaping into the upper atmosphere.
There is this picture:
The way I reason is that methane is a very light molecule, (16 atomic units or 16u) compared to O2 (32u) and N2 (28u) thus it would have a tendency to rise high in the atmosphere. As it goes higher it meets high powered rays from the sun and elsewhere. These would tend to break the bonds of the molecule, or so I reason based on knowledge of how ozon is broken by UVC (200-280 nm) in the ozon layer.
What the article from 2012 does not consider is that there might be more meteor smoke in the atmosphere. However if we look at the amount of outgassing having been noticed in recent years and the increased levels of methane, methane could indeed be part of the reason for the increased frequency of noctilucent clouds at low altitude, but it would probably still need some nucleating agent like comet or meteor dust to form the particles we perceive collectively as noctilucent clouds.
Norfolk UK, June 14 ... perhaps the same one?


For future sights this # will come in handy
Same one? I don't know how far they are visible, if you are thinking the cloud over England would be visible over Southern Germany. Night photographers catch many pictures from all over, at least this is the impression I get reading the timeline of an account like:
Same one? I don't know how far they are visible, if you are thinking the cloud over England would be visible over Southern Germany. Night photographers catch many pictures from all over, at least this is the impression I get reading the timeline of an account like:
Yes ... if meteors are seen from different countries or areas, I thought it from that point of view, because noctulicent clouds are/become in the mesosphere. Spaceweather has a nice more practical gallery of this 13-15 june noctulicent clouds event, btw Realtime Image Gallery
Saturday, Jun. 15, 2019
If you've never seen a cloud of frosted meteor smoke, now is the time to look. 2019 is shaping up to be the best year for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) ... maybe ever. Normally confined to near-Arctic latitudes, NLCs have been seen this month in most US states. On Friday morning, June 14th, Don Davis saw them, astonishingly, from the city of Joshua Tree not far from Los Angeles CA:


Taken by Don Davis on June 14, 2019 @ Joshua Tree, CA

"They were dim but distinct," says Davis. "I photographed them easily using a 4 second exposure at ISO 400."

Davis's sighting at +34.1 degrees sets the record for low-latitude observations of NLCs, breaking the previous record set only five days earlier by Brian Guyer at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico (+35.1 degrees).

"I'm shocked to report that I saw the noctilucent clouds while venturing outdoors for a weather observation shortly after sunset," says Guyer, who is a senior meteorologist. "When I noticed the faint blue wavy tendrils far off to the north, I asked myself, 'am I really seeing noctilucent clouds from here?' I'm happy to see that other folks are also seeing these beautiful spectacles of nature at lower latitudes."


Noctilucent clouds form every year when wisps of summertime water vapor rise to the top of Earth's atmosphere and crystallize around specks of meteor smoke. The season typically starts in late May, peaks in July, and peters out in August. If NLCs are being seen in California and New Mexico in June, the season's peak in early July could be very special indeed.

Noctilucent clouds have been creeping south for years--a possible result of climate change and/or the solar cycle. 2019 has broken all the old records for southern sightings, bringing the clouds into the mainstream of mid- to low-latitude sky watching. Now everyone should be alert for NLCs.

Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset (or before sunrise) when the sun is just below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.

Spaceweather reports that for the first time in their 20 years of documenting noctilucent clouds, they've been sighted, and photographed, in New Zealand - a "very rare event". They say that this is due to an atmospheric planetary wave "half as wide as the Earth". Apparently, planetary waves are "enormous ripples of temperature and pressure that form in Earth's atmosphere in response to Coriolis forces." They expect that they could be visible again in NZ in another 5 days - December 6th - due to the pattern of this wave.

Article and footage below:

Planetary wave supercharges extremely rare southern noctilucent clouds event

Dr.Tony Phillips
Space Weather
Wed, 04 Dec 2019 12:00 UTC

noctilucent clouds
© Southern NLCs?? Taken by Mirko Harnisch on December 1, 2019 @ Dunedin, New Zealand

Enjoying the late-evening sky over the Southern Ocean just after 23.00 local time with the Sun 15° below the horizon. Some wispy blue-ish clouds low on the southern horizon were quite an unusual sight. They appeared to be high in altitude and very distant. Whether these were actual NLCs, I do not know. It would be an unusual sighting at this latitude.

An atmospheric wave nearly half as wide as Earth itself is supercharging noctilucent clouds (NLCs) in the southern hemisphere. NASA's AIM spacecraft detected the phenomenon in this series of south polar images spanning Nov. 27th through Dec. 2nd:

"This is a clear sign of planetary wave activity," says AIM principal investigator James Russell of Hampton University, which manages the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere mission for NASA.

Planetary waves are enormous ripples of temperature and pressure that form in Earth's atmosphere in response to Coriolis forces. In this case, a 5-day planetary wave is boosting noctilucent clouds over Antarctica and causing them to spin outward to latitudes where NLCs are rarely seen.

noctilucent clouds

On Dec. 1st, Mirko Harnisch saw the clouds from Dunedin, New Zealand. "I was enjoying the late-evening sky over the Southern Ocean just after 11 pm local time when these wispy blue-ish clouds appeared," says Harnisch. "They looked like noctilucent clouds, which would make this a rare sighting for my latitude of 45S."

Indeed, very rare. has been receiving images of NLCs for more than 20 years. This is the first-ever submission from New Zealand.

Noctilucent clouds over Antarctica itself are nothing unusual. They form every year around this time when the first wisps of summertime water vapor rise to the top of Earth's atmosphere. Molecules of H2O adhere to specks of meteor smoke, forming ice crystals 83 km above Earth's surface.

But these NLCs are different. They're unusually strong and congregated in a coherent spinning mass.

noctilucent clouds
© Taken by Mirko Harnisch on December 1, 2019 @ Dunedin, New Zealand

"The planetary wave is responsible," says AIM science team member Lynn Harvey of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). "It is concentrating a mass of cold water vapor in the mesosphere and causing it to pinwheel counterclockwise around the South Pole."

Harvey has been tracking the moisture in data from NASA's Microwave Limb Sounder instruments, shown above. It matches almost perfectly the location of the NLCs.

Because the noctilucent clouds are spinning around with a 5 day period, they could return to New Zealand 5 days after Harnisch saw them-that is, on Dec. 6th. Such a forecast is very uncertain. Nevertheless, sky watchers who wish to try should look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils hugging the horizon, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.

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