It’s not uncommon to spot clouds hovering over at least part of the planet’s largest inland body of water, the Caspian Sea. but on May 28, NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) spotted a peculiarly shaped cloud drifting across the body of water. The cloud had well defined edges resembling something out of a cartoon, or something painted on the landscape, in stark contrast to the typical diffuse and scattered cloud cover.
According to Bastiaan van Diedenhoven, an atmospheric scientist at the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, the cloud is a small stratocumulus. Cumulus clouds are detached “clusters” of “cauliflower-shaped” clouds that are usually found in good weather. In stratocumulus, these clusters are grouped together, forming an extended horizontal layer of clouds.
The stratocumulus cloud in the photo formed a layer that extended for about 100 kilometers. These clouds usually form at low altitudes, usually between 600 and 2,000 meters above the ground. The one in the photo was probably hovering at an altitude of about 1,500 meters.
In the late morning when the photo above was taken, the cloud was over the central Caspian. By afternoon it had drifted northwest and stopped over the central Caspian. By afternoon, it had drifted northwest and skirted the coast of Makhachkala, Russia, along a low plain near the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.
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According to van Diedenhoven, the cloud could have formed when warm, dry air met cooler, moist air over the Caspian. It could then have drifted across the sea and dissipated when it reached dry land.
“Sharp ridges often form when warm, dry air from land collides with cooler, moist air over the ocean, and the cloud forms at that boundary. You often see this off the west coast of Africa, but at much larger scales,” van Diedenhoven said in a press release, explaining how the way the cloud formed also explains its ridges. live.