Phenomena

Fallstreak Holes

Fallstreak holes over Florida in January 2021.

Occasionally clouds appear to have a hole in them; these are known as fallstreak holes or hole-punch clouds. To form, the water droplets in the cloud must be supercooled; in other words, they must be colder than their freezing point but still in liquid form. When disturbed — say, by the temperature drop caused by flowing over an airplane wing — the supercooled water droplets will suddenly freeze. This typically kicks off a chain reaction in which many droplets freeze and the heavy ice crystals fall out of the sky, leaving behind a void in the cloud. Because airplanes are particularly good at creating these fallstreak holes, they’re often seen near busy airports. (Image credit: J. Stevens/NASA; via NASA Earth Observatory)

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