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Celestial Signs; Sun, Moon, Stars, Sky: Noctilucent Clouds

Updated on July 18, 2012

Night shining clouds have as their causes, solar influences and gasses in the high atmosphere.

The turbulent sun periodically has sunspots and these are precursors to more violent events like the Coronal Mass Ejection.
The turbulent sun periodically has sunspots and these are precursors to more violent events like the Coronal Mass Ejection.
One of the effects of sunspots is increased aurora as depicted in this painting by Frederick Edwin Church.
One of the effects of sunspots is increased aurora as depicted in this painting by Frederick Edwin Church.
A contemporary photograph of an Aurora Borealis is one among a wide selection available as this is a hot topic for photographers. These dispalys are caused most frequently during solar storms.
A contemporary photograph of an Aurora Borealis is one among a wide selection available as this is a hot topic for photographers. These dispalys are caused most frequently during solar storms.
Just after sunset, or just before sunrise, you may see noctilucent or night shining clouds that are caused by solar radiation exciting hydrogen atom at the edge of space, typically at 80 to 100 kilometres up,
Just after sunset, or just before sunrise, you may see noctilucent or night shining clouds that are caused by solar radiation exciting hydrogen atom at the edge of space, typically at 80 to 100 kilometres up,
This photo shows a twilight occurrence of noctilucent clouds. These clouds are becoming increasingly common due to methane breakdown and hydrogen sulfide rising high into the atmosphere.
This photo shows a twilight occurrence of noctilucent clouds. These clouds are becoming increasingly common due to methane breakdown and hydrogen sulfide rising high into the atmosphere.
This is another example of noctilucent clouds, again seen near the daylight-darkness terminator. The glow is caused by the photoelectric effect at the blue end of the visible spectrum for hydrogen.
This is another example of noctilucent clouds, again seen near the daylight-darkness terminator. The glow is caused by the photoelectric effect at the blue end of the visible spectrum for hydrogen.

Night shining clouds are strange, beautiful, interesting and ominous.

From astrological configurations, to eclipses, occultations, sunspots and CMEs, comets, aurora, meteoroids, ball lightning, bolts from the blue, sprites, UFOs to noctilucent or night shining clouds there is a huge variety of peculiar sky visions, each with its own associated mythical meaning. It is also true that in a changing cosmos and a changing earth. Each one of these events has its own cycle and some occur in lockstep with celestial changes or changes on the earth. An example of the former is the synchronicity between sunspot cycles and aurora. For the latter, we see a match up with increasing methane and noctilucent clouds. As most of us are familiar with the link between sunspots, Coronal Mass Ejections with aurora on earth, we will instead go to a topic for which most people are not aware; the noctilucent clouds that are becoming increasingly frequent.


Just as in anything else, there is a cycle between manifestations on earth that match sky events. For noctilucent or night shining clouds, that match is linked from earth to sky in contradistinction to the usual manifestation of sky to earth. Now the operative cause comes from the sky, but the medium comes from the earth. The sun plays a part in causing these clouds to glow in typical blue colour, but the clouds get there from the earth itself. The cyclical part comes from the aperiodic release of methane from the earth. Lately, there has been a sharp increase in the sighting of this usually rare phenomenon. They were seen in 2003 in space from the International Space Station and were photographed by astronauts. Since then, they have been photographed from the ground in various locations all over the planet. They occur typically from 80 to 100 kilometres at the edge of space. Incoming radiation from the sun causes them to glow and they are typically seen near dawn or dusk.


The first sighting was recorded in 1885, after the eruption of Krakatoa that injected large amounts of dust 80 kilometres into the stratosphere. But they have been increasing in frequency in the last few years. Thus, at least one source appears to be volcanic dust. But not just anything in the dust, it is a specific part. That clue comes from contemporary times with a large and accelerating injection of the greenhouse gas methane. Methane rises into the atmosphere and is broken down by ultra-violet radiation from the sun in the upper atmosphere. From there, the hydrogen leaks into space. Once there, ionizing radiation excites the hydrogen, causing it to glow electric blue due to the photoelectric effect. So we can trace the Krakatoa incident to hydrogen released from hydrogen sulphide by a similar process of breaking down by ultraviolet radiation that releases the hydrogen that then rises into space and is ionized.


Every now and then, prodigious quantities of methane are released into the atmosphere to rise, be disassociated into the various elements that make it up, allowing the hydrogen to escape into space. This can happen, because the earth and oceans contain a large amount of methane in its frozen state. Methane freezes easily under pressure, but can be released with increasing heat. With global warming, a lot more of it is being released from the melting permafrost, so theoreticians are on the right track when they trace the increasing appearance of noctilucent clouds with an increase of methane. Modern farming processes are also adding substantially to the release of methane. Thus there are two modern sources. This means that these electric blue wispy clouds are related to global warming, particularity since methane is a greenhouse gas itself.


The reduction and increasing chaotic nature of the geomagnetosphere during the current reversal process allows solar radiation of all kinds to penetrate deeper into the atmosphere. Noctilucent clouds thus have the potential of forming lower in the atmosphere. It might even happen that we see these clouds at the same level as stratospheric clouds are now. In addition to methane causing them by the release of hydrogen, once ionizing solar radiation reaches deeper into the atmosphere, the disassociation of water can occur causing an increase in noctilucent activity. This is not the first time this has occurred. There was the 1885 event. Then there is the great release of methane 12,600 years ago. In the span measured in a couple of decades, the mean average temperature of the rose by five degrees Celsius. In that time, the first great post ice age melt down occurred raising sea level by at leat 200 feet “virtually overnight”. It is now though that a comet or asteroid smashed into the Laurentide ice sheet causing not only a flash meltdown, but a substantial release of methane that shows up in ice cores dated for that period.


At that time, the appearance of noctilucent clouds would have been sudden and intense and likely lasting for years until the earth normalized from the sudden change. We can suggest this as a possibility, because the rising level of methane today is increasing the frequency of the appearance of night shining clouds. Though interesting and beautiful to witness and photograph as some have, they are also an ominous sign of increasing global warming. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. The recent disaster of the BP oil spill in the gulf of Mexico has added to the mix, sour gas, or hydrogen sulphide that will add to the contribution. Noctilucent or night shining clouds will thus become a more frequent event.


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    • profile image

      Noctilucent Cloud 

      7 years ago

      Noctilucent Cloud is an unusual phenomenon of the Earth's upper-atmosphere. They are most often seen at times close to the summer solstice, when they appear against the backdrop of deep evening twilights.

      Climate models predict that increased greenhouse gas emissions cause a cooling of the mesosphere, which would lead to more frequent and widespread occurrences of noctilucent clouds.

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