The first three photos shown below I took from between Crestone and the Great Sand Dunes NP in Southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, @ around 8,200 ft. altitude, earlier today, Sept 28, 2015:
This is about as colorful as it got:
I don’t know about you, but *I* didn’t grow up seeing these kinds of clouds on a fairly regular basis. Now, granted, I grew up in Belgium, not above 8,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. Yet, there’s people that grew up around here that claim these kind of ‘weird clouds’ are far more common here now too, compared to a decade or so ago.
Some say it’s because of all the stuff airplanes put in the sky, so-called ‘chemtrails‘. I still think that what many chemtrail spotters call ‘chemtrails’ are just contrails. (For an example of what passes for normal in many high-air-trafic areas, see also my posts Arrival Aerials and Skies and Skies over Belgium, both from 2012. The reason ‘contrails’ are so common now (so much that they can make a sunny day ‘partly clouded’) is simple (or at least so I fathom): AIR TRAFFIC.
For a clue as to how much air traffic there is these days, check http://www.flightradar24.com. A snapshot of what was in the air this evening (@ 6:19pm MD) over Colorado, Utah, and also showing most of Kansas:
Personally, yet again revealing “my little obsession” and the possible bias that comes with that, I’m more inclined to wonder whether or not radioactive fallout, including more particles and gasses at higher altitude, could be a factor in making this colorful phenomenon occur more often. (?)
So this evening, I read a bit on the mainstream understanding of these kinds of ‘mother-of-pearl’ clouds. Nowhere is it suggested that something else than just tiny ice crystals higher up may be a factor:
- Wikipedia [Cloud iridescence] has this to say:
“Cloud iridescence is the occurrence of colors in a cloud similar to those seen in oil films on puddles, and is similar to irisation. It is a fairly uncommon phenomenon, most often observed in altocumulus, cirrocumulus, lenticular clouds and cirrus clouds. The colors are usually pastel, but can be very vivid. Iridescence is generally produced near the sun, with the sun’s glare masking it, so it is more easily seen by hiding the sun behind a tree or building. Other aids are dark glasses, or observing the sky reflected in a convex mirror or in a pool of water.
Iridescent clouds are a diffraction phenomenon caused by small water droplets or small ice crystals individually scattering light. Larger ice crystals produce halos.
If parts of clouds have small droplets or crystals of similar size, their cumulative effect is seen as colors. The cloud must be optically thin, so that most rays encounter only a single droplet. Iridescence is therefore mostly seen at cloud edges or in semi-transparent clouds, and newly forming clouds produce the brightest and most colorful iridescence […]”
- Sept 18, 2015, USA Today showed some amazing pictures with the headline, “Rare iridescent cloud formation dazzles over Costa Rica“, showing what is probably a still from the video by Storyful / Ariel Joseph Petit:
- In May 2013, EarthSky had an article with many more amazing examples of irridescent clouds in, “What causes rainbow colors in clouds?“
- On Bored Panda, I came accross, “Mind-Blowing Cloud Formations You Probably Haven’t Seen Before”, by Lina D., which also included some very nice Mammatus Clouds (which I also observed, together with slight iridenscent clouds, locally when the rain was more radioactive than usual), as well as incredible Polar Stratospheric Clouds.
Turns out the reason for colorful Polar Stratospheric Clouds is nitric and sulphuric acid bonding with water vapor to form crystaline hydrates. (see page 109 and after in Stratospheric Ozone Depletion and Climate Change, which I stumbled upon when wondering if there were any reports of more colorful clouds after the massive atmospheric nuclear bomb tests of the early 1960s). I glanced at some data of the radioactive sulphur released by Fukushima…
I pondered the claim by chemtrail activists that “they’re spraying mainly Barium.” Stable Barium isotopes (Ba-134, Ba-137, Ba-138,…) are also the decay products of radioCesium, a main part of any nuclear fallout, from a nuclear bomb or ‘accident’. Cs-134 becomes Ba-134; Cs-142 becomes Ba-142, which eventually becomes Ba-138; The most common radioactive fallout ingredient, Cesium-137, decays into Barium-137.
Since radioCesiums are deposited or blowing around anywhere downwind from nuclear bomb tests, as well as downwind Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc., you’re bound to find the element Barium if you test water or soils for it. And given the massive amounts sent into the atmosphere by the ongoing Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, it’s not unlikely that the stratospheric dust layer was supplied a fair amount of radioCesium, which would result in trace amounts slowly making their way down to lower layers into the troposphere and eventually ground level. My skepticism about some of the elements of the chemtrail conspiracy boil down to this: Just because it falls from the sky does not mean an airplane put it there… (I would even go further: What if the chemtrail cospiracy were promoted to distract from what may really be going one and keep the topic in the fringes?)
Well, I don’t know… So many factors that would need to be looked at… Maybe someday when I have more time for this, I’ll look into it a bit more. But it is my personal impression that cloud irridescence, as well as mammatus clouds, occur far more often than they did in previous decades. I suspect nuclear polution might be a contributing factor, but I have no proof of that.
(This post was edited updated on Sept. 29, 2015)