Mountains in the Sky

The anvil cloud of a thunderstorm.

Our skies can sometimes presage the weather to come. In thunderstorms, a cirrus plume above an anvil cloud will often appear (visible by satellite) about half an hour before severe conditions are reported on the ground. A new study delves into the origins of these plumes and finds that they result from an internal hydraulic jump in the storm that acts a bit like an artificial mountain, driving air — and the moisture it contains — higher in the stratosphere than normal. Once the jump is established, the authors found it could drive 7 tonnes per second of water vapor into the stratosphere! (Image credit: jplenio; research credit: M. O’Neill et al.; via Science)

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