June 17, 2021

Noctilucent clouds and a Beautiful Sunrise

 After all the challenging weather talk of late, including heavy rain, humid air, heat waves, the potential for wildfires, and drought, it is nice to step back and enjoy the beauty that the sky offers, enhanced by our understanding of what is going on.

For example, consider the Noctilucent Clouds that have been observed the last few days over the region.  These extraordinarily beautiful clouds, observed after sunset or before sunrise, are comprised of ice-covered meteor dust high in the atmosphere (250,000 to 280,000 ft)--MUCH higher than normal clouds, which are generally found below 35,000 ft.  As an aside, noctilucent can be translated from Latin as "night-shining."

Here is an image of last night's noctilucent clouds, provided by Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay Weather, taken at 3:31 AM this morning.   It was taken looking north from the Kitsap Peninsula.  The white lights are the noctilucent clouds.  And you can also see some of the colors of the incipient sunrise.

But one can best appreciate the delicate, ethereal beauty of noctilucent clouds by looking at a time sequence, and the video from last night (supplied by Greg Johnson) provides such a wonderful view.

Noctilucent clouds are only observed during the late spring and summer, ironically because the upper atmosphere is cooler then. and typically seen between 50 and 70 degrees from the equator.   We are just north enough to view them.

And if the noctilucent clouds were not enough for you, the sunrise this morning was colorfully spectacular with a long period of orange/reddish hue clouds around sunrise:

Courtesy of Greg Johnson, Skunk Bay Weather

This time of the year, near the summer solstice, has the longest twilight periods of the year...and thus the longest periods of colorful sunrises and sunsets.   All this is needed is the right clouds.


  1. Noctilucent clouds - they're fascinating. I had no idea they're that high (amazing!). Good podcast, too. I just looked at the UW forecast(s), and it seems we're going to have some perfect weather these next few days. [The Atmospheric Sciences site is an invaluable resource; thanks to all who maintain it.]

  2. Do you think we'll get another chance to see noctilucent clouds again tomorrow morning?


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