Phenomena

Ship Tracks in the Sky

Satellite image over the Pacific, showing ship tracks.

Line-like clouds criss-cross the Pacific Ocean in this satellite image. Each one is a ship track, a remnant left behind a passing ship. As they travel, ships leave a trail of exhaust that seeds the atmosphere with aerosols that serve as additional nucleation sites for clouds. The tiny particles interact with existing low-level clouds, making them brighter. Of course, the aerosols are present in the wake of ships regardless of whether they seed clouds that we can observe. (Image credit: J. Stevens; via NASA Earth Observatory)

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