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Major outbreak of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) over Europe

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A major outbreak of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) was reported over Europe, including France, Spain, Germany. NLCs over these latitudes are considered rare, according to night sky enthusiasts, as these clouds are typically seen over higher latitudes.

Last week, NLCs were observed over countries inside the Arctic Circle. The clouds suddenly spread out towards mid-latitude regions and have been spotted over Paris, Madrid, Berlin, and other European capitals.

"It is pretty strange to observe noctilucent clouds from these latitudes," said photographer Francisco Gil, who took a shot of NLCs as far south as Valencia in Spain on June 20, 2021.

"Indeed it is. Valencia is at +39N, a latitude where NLCs are almost never seen," noted Dr. Tony Philipps of spaceweather.com.

"For most of their history (NLCs were discovered in the 19th century), the clouds have been found mainly near the Arctic Circle. Now they are spreading."

To date, the record low latitude where NLCs were spotted was over Los Angeles (+34 N) in June 2019. 

Gil's sightings show that the clouds are in the 30s latitude again. So far, the lowest sighting over Spain was recorded at the Calar Alto Observatory (+37.5N).

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​Image credit: Francisco Gil/spaceweathergallery.com

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Image: NLCs over Castleford, England. Taken June 21. Credit: Gordon Ward/spaceweathergallery.com

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NLCs over Paris. Taken June 21, 2021. Credit: Bertrand Kulik/spaceweathergallery.com

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​NLCs over Sumirago, Italy. Taken June 21, 2021. Credit: Paolo Bardelli/spaceweathergallery.com

"I enjoyed installing the camera myself in 2007," said Dr. Gerd Baumgarten of the Leibniz Institute of Atmospheric Physics.

"It took five years to capture the first NLC from that location, however since 2018 we're getting about 2 events every year."

NLCs are the highest clouds on Earth. They form when summertime wisps of water vapor ascend to the edge of space at 83 km (52 miles) and crystallize around dissipated meteoroids.

Dr. Philipps describes, "When you see one, you're literally seeing a cloud of frosted meteor smoke."

"Observation tip: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset (or before sunrise) when the sun is just below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud."

Featured image credit: Francisco Gil/spaceweathergallery.com

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6 Comments

  1. Noctilucent clouds also form due to methane in the mesosphere. The source is largely from the massive emissions around Severnaya Zemlya. The Arctic is one of the only regions that lets methane out to this level. Emissions are now year-round due to mass methane hydrate gasification

  2. So glad we are finally seeing climate change / covid as the grand solar minimum ushers in that carnage with much more to come. V-axx or no? Doesn’t matter. The earth will maintain her carrying capacity. Embrace population reduction…. it’s must happen.

  3. Signs and wonders as promised by God, a sign of the so called “end times”. It will be the end for some, but not me, praise God… There are a lot more signs than just this for those whose eyes & ears are open to see & hear….

  4. This is a great article, but noctilucent clouds have been observed in the UK and Holland and many other areas in Europe, this summer and last summer. It is odd to call something rare, when it has happened two summers in a row. Especially as there have been so many sightings of them, by causal observers. It is no longer rare, and what we need is some understanding of why this is happening. Why are these clouds forming at lower latitudes now? Is it to do with climate change? Is it to do with changes in the upper atmosphere? Someone must have some understanding of this phenomena?

    1. NLCs occur at the highest level in the atmosphere and are temperature dependent.
      Normally seen over high latitude, especially polar areas where the upper atmosphere is colder.
      The NLCs being seen at lower latitudes since about 2014, may correspond to the sun being in solar minimum, solar output is lessened and therefore the upper atmosphere is colder at lower latitudes.
      Also, as there are more reports of sightings, it might mean that more people are looking up and spotting them, as media like The Watchers News are bringing this information to you daily and educating people.

    2. NLCs occur at the highest level in the atmosphere and are temperature dependent.
      Normally seen over high latitude, especially polar areas where the upper atmosphere is colder.
      The NLCs being seen at lower latitudes since about 2014, may correspond to the sun being in solar minimum, solar output is lessened and therefore the upper atmosphere is colder at lower latitudes.
      Also, as there are more reports of sightings, it might mean that more people are looking up and spotting them, as media like The Watchers News are bringing this information to you daily and educating people.

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