Articles | Volume 20, issue 5
31 May 2002
 | 31 May 2002

An explanation for some fallstreak clouds

R. M. Worthington

Abstract. Fallstreak cirrus clouds are associated with super-saturated air, together with waves, instabilities and/or turbulence; however, their precise cause is usually uncertain. This paper uses already-published satellite, radiosonde and radar data, reanalysed to study some large fallstreaks which had been previously overlooked. The fallstreaks – up to 60 km long with a parent cloud 20 km wide – are caused by lifting and/or turbulence from a mountain wave, rather than, for example, Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities. If turbulent breaking of mountain waves affects ice particle formation, this may be relevant for the seeder-feeder effect on orographic rain, and the efficiency of mountain-wave polar stratospheric clouds for ozone depletion.

Key words. Meteorology and atmospheric dynamics (turbulence; waves and tides) – Atmospheric composition and structure (cloud physics and chemistry)