Photo from NASA's Terra satellite in 2007, showing a cloud bank riddled with canals and hole punches. State boundaries are shown in blue.

Photo from NASA's Terra satellite in 2007, showing a cloud bank riddled with canals and hole punches. State boundaries are shown in blue.

Airplanes can do some pretty awesome things, but did you know they can make it rain? I am not talking about special research aircraft sent up to “seed” the clouds, I am talking about everyday airliners that can make it rain and punch holes into the sky.

We all learned in science class that water freezes at 32 degrees. However, droplets that make up clouds can be as cold as -35 degrees F. When an airliner flies through the cloud, the temperature will drop, causing the droplets to freeze. When the droplets freeze, they fall to the ground as snow or rain, leaving a big hole in the cloud.

This doesn’t happen each time a plane flies through a cloud, the conditions must be just right. Turboprops are more likely to produce to effect versus jets, because they fly at lower altitudes and they do not have hotter jet engines, allowing the air to cool even more.

Most of the time as an airplane goes through the sweet-spot a hole is made, but sometimes the airplane is able to continue in that sweet spot and form “canal clouds.”

So next time you are on the ground and get a short rain or snow fall, take a look up, it could have been caused by an airline.

THANKS DAN FOR THE TIP!

Source & Image: Discovery.com

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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3 Comments

I have also heard that the Contrails contribute to higher global temps. That contrails help to create Cirrus clouds that allow suns radiation through but act as a blanket to keep the warmth from radiating back out. And that durring the few days planes were grounded due to 9/11 that there was a measured difference in temps due to this phenomenon.

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