Meteorological wonders of flyover country

Some new research shows planes and jets can make it snow and rain.


Why has it been raining so much in the Twin Cities? Let’s blame the airplanes.

According to Wired, new research is showing that airplanes can “punch holes in clouds” and make it rain and snow.


Previous research also suggests that propeller planes could make snow fall when they flew through supercooled clouds, where water droplets remain liquid despite subfreezing temperatures. But until recently, a direct connection between airplanes, hole-punch clouds and snowfall was missing. Now, a team of atmospheric scientists report observing all three in the June Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Andrew Heymsfield of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and colleagues flew a research plane through the snow produced by a hole-punch cloud west of Denver International Airport in 2007. The plane was loaded with instruments for studying how ice forms in clouds. Radar from the ground picked up a strange echo in their wake, indicating oddly-shaped snowflakes.

This video shows what they found: A hole in the cloud.

So researchers examined flight records from nearby Denver airport and determined that supercooled water droplets, hit the planes’ propellers and fell to earth as snow.

The latest research shows that it happens when the droplets pass over a jet’s wings, too.

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