It’s not unusual to see clouds hovering over at least part of the largest inland body of water on the planet, the Caspian Sea. but on May 28, NASA’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) spotted an unusually shaped cloud drifting over a body of water. The cloud had sharply defined edges, reminiscent of something from a cartoon or something drawn against a landscape, in stark contrast to the typical scattered and scattered cloud cover.
It’s a small stratocumulus cloud, according to Bastian van Diedenhoven, an atmospheric researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Space Research SRON. Cumulus clouds are individual “heaps” of “cauliflower” clouds that typically occur during good weather conditions. In stratocumulus clouds, these piles stick together to form a widespread horizontal cloud layer.
The stratocumulus cloud in the image formed a layer about 100 kilometers long. These clouds usually form at low altitudes, typically between 600 and 2000 meters above the ground. The one in the picture probably hovered at an altitude of about 1500 meters.
Late in the morning when the picture above was taken, there was a cloud over the central Caspian. By noon it shifted to the northwest and hovered over the central part of the Caspian. By noon it had shifted to the northwest and approached the coast of Makhachkala, Russia, along a low plain at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains.
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The cloud may have formed when warm, dry air collided with cooler, wetter air over the Caspian Sea, van Diedenhoven said. It could then drift across the sea and dissipate when it reaches land.
“Sharp edges often form when dry, warm air coming from land collides with cooler, moist air over the ocean, and a cloud forms at that boundary. You often see this off the west coast of Africa, but on a much larger scale,” van Diedenhoven said in a press statement, highlighting how the way the cloud formed also explains its sharp edges.