Knowledge Polar Stratospheric Cloud

Published on January 15th, 2012 | by Duncan Riley


Polar Stratospheric Clouds Are Spectacular

Polar Stratospheric Cloud

Many people know of the spectacular Aurora Borealis, but there’s an another amazing site that occurs in extreme northern and southern climates when icy clouds form in the lower stratosphere: polar stratospheric clouds.

Polar stratospheric clouds, also known as nacreous clouds (or mother of pearl clouds due to their iridescence), are clouds in the winter polar stratosphere at altitudes of 15,000–25,000 meters (50,000–80,000 ft).

Although they look spectacular, they aren’t so great for the environment as they are implicated in the formation of ozone holes. The clouds support chemical reactions that produce active chlorine which catalyzes ozone destruction, and remove gaseous nitric acid, perturbing nitrogen and chlorine cycles in a way which increases ozone destruction.

The are formed, ironically given their relationship to ice, when the stratosphere is very dry. The clouds receive sunlight from below the horizon and reflect it to the ground, shining brightly well before dawn or after dusk.

The above picture was taken by Göran Strand, who took this picture last night from Östersund, Sweden, as featured on We’ve included a gallery of the amazing polar stratospheric clouds as follows:

polar stratospheric cloud 1

polar stratospheric clouds 3



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About the Author

Editor & Publisher Duncan Riley started blogging in 2003 after a career of management and Government service. In 2003 he started the Blog Herald, the first blog to cover the then new industry of blogging. In 2005 he was one of the three founders of b5media After a 12 month stint at TechCrunch, writing as the No.2 to Michael Arrington, Duncan left to found The Inquisitr and now runs both Medacity and fortytwotimes. Follow on Twitter at: duncanriley

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