Polar stratospheric clouds over Sweden

Northern Europe had an amazing display of these clouds this week.

Bright clouds in the night sky, reflecting in water along a shoreline.

View larger. | Göran Strand captured this glorious shot of polar stratospheric clouds on December 30, 2019 from Frösön, Sweden. He told EarthSky that these clouds: “… even lit up the surrounding landscape.”

As 2019 came to a close, northern Europe saw a beautiful display of polar stratospheric clouds. They are high-altitude clouds, seen at heights between 49,000 and 82,000 feet (15,000–25,000 meters). The sort made of frozen ice crystal are also called nacreous clouds or mother-of-pearl clouds. In describ ing them, Les Cowley at Atmospheric Optics said they are:

… rare, but once seen are never forgotten. They are mostly visible within two hours after sunset or before dawn when they blaze unbelievably bright with vivid and slowly shifting iridescent colours.

According to Tony Phillips at Spaceweather:

Polar stratospheric clouds are newsworthy because normally the stratosphere has no clouds at all. The stratosphere is arid and almost always transparent. Only when the temperature drops to a staggeringly cold -85C can sparse water molecules assemble themselves into icy stratospheric clouds.

PSCs are far more rare than auroras.

We received several photos of polar stratospheric clouds this week, and more appear in Spaceweather.com’s gallery. The image above – and video below – from Göran Strand in Sweden are among the best we saw. Thank you, Göran!

Bottom line: As 2019 ended, northerly latitudes saw a beautiful display of polar stratospheric clouds.

Read about polar stratospheric clouds at Atmospheric Optics

Visit Fotograf Göran Strand on Facebook

Deborah Byrd