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Cavum Clouds

Facts for Prelims (FFP)


Source: NASA

 Context: NASA’s Terra satellite recently captured a cluster of cavum clouds over the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s west coast.

What are Cavum clouds (also known as hole-punch clouds or fallstreak holes)?

They are formations in the atmosphere that appear as if a large circle or ellipse has been neatly cut from the clouds, leaving feathery wisps in the middle of the hole. They are a result of aeroplanes flying through banks of altocumulus clouds, causing supercooled water droplets to freeze into ice crystals due to adiabatic expansion. The falling ice crystals leave a hole in the cloud layer, with wispy trails of precipitation visible in the centre known as virga.


Types of Clouds:

Type Description
Cirrus Clouds Wispy, curly, or stringy clouds found high in the atmosphere, usually made of ice crystals.
Signal clear, fair weather.
Stratus Clouds Horizontal, layered clouds that can blanket the entire sky. Occur close to the Earth’s surface.
Form at the boundary of warm fronts, where warm, moist air is forced up over cold air.
Cumulus Clouds Large, lumpy clouds that stretch vertically into the atmosphere.
Created by strong updrafts of warm, moist air.
Nimbostratus Clouds Low and middle dark grey clouds with precipitation falling from them.
Stratocumulus Clouds Low clouds with irregular masses, rolling or puffy in appearance.
Cumulonimbus Clouds Large clouds with dark bases and tall billowing towers.
Can have sharp well-defined edges or an anvil shape at the top.
Precipitation can obscure the base of the clouds.