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Very rare Polar Stratospheric Clouds Type II appear over Scandinavia


YouTube video

Northern regions of Scandinavia were treated to a very rare high-altitude spectacle on January 17, 2022, photographer Adrien Mauduit reports.

For about 2 hours, rare polar stratospheric clouds (PSC) type II appeared out of nowhere, displaying a staggering iridescence contrasting with the dimmer twilight of the short polar days.

PSCs are also called mother-of-pearl clouds or nacreous clouds because their iridescence (diffraction of sunlight in tiny ice particles) is some of the strongest in clouds on Earth.

Their strong colors are very visible with naked eyes, making the experience surreal, almost straight out of a fairy tale.

They are also some of the highest clouds on Earth, forming around 15 – 30 km (9 – 18 miles) in altitude in very precise conditions, limiting their occurrence.

It needs to be extremely cold up there, which can only be satisfied in the winter months above polar regions where the stratosphere is at its coldest. There, tiny ice particles (along with other chemicals present in type I) nucleate and form over mountain ranges because of vertical shears/strong winds to form lenticular structures (type II).

"I filmed those in a rush yesterday between snow showers, as a friend gave me the heads up. I used a long focal length to really try and emphasize their iridescence," Adrien said.

"In one of the sequences, you can also see Jupiter hang above the clouds (top left corner!), as well as an airplane flying by! All was shot with the Sony a7rII at a focal length of 200 – 600mm (Sony)."

Video courtesy Night Lights Films/Adrien Mauduit

Featured image credit: Night Lights Films/Adrien Mauduit


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