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‘Hole punch’ clouds seen in CNY: What are they?

SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) – If it appears as if Mother Nature took a hole punch to the clouds, you are likely viewing a phenomenon called a “fallstreak.”

Tom Burnash, Jr. shared these photos with NewsChannel 9 of fallstreaks in Hamilton on Friday.

So, what’s the science behind what Tom witnessed?

To get a fallstreak, you need altocumulus or cirrocumulus clouds. These clouds are mid to high-altitude clouds that are commonly comprised of ‘supercooled’ water droplets, or water droplets that are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit but not actually frozen yet. Yes, water can be below the ‘freezing’ point but still be a liquid!

When an airplane travels through this cloud layer, it generates a process called ‘adiabatic cooling.’ The air around the airplane starts to expand and cool, and can then cause the water droplets that make up the clouds to freeze. In turn, they grow, become heavier, and start to fall. This creates a hole in the cloud layer, which continues to expand as this process occurs with surrounding supercooled water droplets.

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