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Noctilucent clouds outburst strongest in 15 years, NLCs seen as far south as Washington State and Oregon

Robert Howell on July 2 2022 by robert howell - alberta canada

A sharp spike in the frequency of noctilucent clouds was detected at the end of June 2022. This is the largest NLCs spike in the last 15 years.

It’s not yet clear what caused this huge spike, but one speculation made by Cora Randall, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, is that it might be due to extra water vapor transported to higher latitudes from rocket launches.

Noctilucent Cloud Frequency (AIM) graph
Credit: Cora Randall, AIM

While much more quantitative analysis would be required to confirm this, the timing makes sense.1

It takes about 10 days for water vapor from rocket engines to waft up to the mesosphere, Dr. Tony Phillips of the SpaceWeather noted.

“This takes us back to SpaceX’s launch of the Globalstar satellite on June 19, which caused a number of remarkable phenomena in the sky due to the extra burn time of its second-stage engine.”

“Noctilucent clouds may be yet another by-product of that unusual launch,” Phillips said.

NLCs are normally a polar phenomenon. However, since the outburst began we have received reports of NLCs from as far south as Washington State and Oregon.

References:

1 A Sudden Increase in Noctilucent Clouds – SpaceWeather Archive – July 4, 2022

Featured image credit: Robert Howell. Taken on July 2, 2022 from Alberta, Canada

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