The very strange Sky Punch Cloud!
Earlier this evening I showed this bizarre but awesome looking picture during the 6:30 Newscast and asked viewers if they thought it was real or a fake.
Believe it or not, but this is a REAL photo with no touchups. This is a very rare meteorological phenomenon known as "skypunch" or "punch hole cloud".
There was a landslide of comments on my facebook page, so I thought I'd share a little more about this strange weather occurance. Btw, that is NOT lightning shooting down from the center of "the hole". It is only a sun ray. (wheew!)
These cloud formations have apparently been observed in many different parts of the world. Here are more examples...
The layer of clouds surrounding "the hole" are cirro clumuls clouds. These clouds are composed of tiny super-cooled water droplets.
The fibrous, cirrus looking formations that appear to be falling out of "the hole" are likely ice crystals that have formed from the super-cooled water droplets that make up the mother cloud.
How these holes form is not fully understood, but there are some compelling explainations out there.
With reference to the above phote, the following is from Dr David Whitehouse, the BBC News Online science editor:
A giant hole that appeared in a uniform layer of cloud over Mobile, Alabama, in the US, has left scientists puzzled. Local resident Joel Knain said as he took pictures: "I immediately realised that I was seeing something unique." Meteorological experts believe the hole formed when ice-crystals from a passing plane fell through the cloud, causing the water droplets in it to evaporate. Experts say the process involved is related to that of cloud seeding, which is used to make rain over crop fields. The unusual phenomenon was observed on 11 December last year. "I ran inside to get my camera and shot-off 10 - 12 frames to capture the scene," Joel told BBC News Online. "I would guess that we stood there for 10 - 15 minutes just staring in amazement."
Strictly speaking there is no scientific term for the apparition, and what exactly it is has been the subject of much meteorological speculation. One hypothesis is that the hole is made by falling ice-crystals that could have come from the exhaust of a passing aircraft. It is possible the air was at just the right temperature and with just the right moisture content so that the falling crystals could absorb water from the air and grow. The moisture removed from the air could have increased the evaporation of the cloud's water droplets, which then disappeared to produce the dramatic hole. The wispy clouds seen below the hole may be heavier ice-crystals that have fallen from the hole, evaporating (the correct term is subliming) before they reach the ground. It's called a fallstreak hole.
Although I've never witnessed one of these myself, this explaination seems reasonable to me.
I found a couple videos of the phenomenon as well. Enjoy...