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Photo of the week: artificial rope to heaven?

Aira Idris Aira Idris | 18:00 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

d ~ 357'029'600 km: day 139

I've been trying to identity this cloud. With my cloud spotter bible firmly beside me, this photo had me stumped for a while. It looks like a cross between rapunzel's hair hanging down the tower and a twisted rope, not very scientific descriptions I agree - but this 'cloud' is not easy to identify.

It was spotted in the UK by one of our 23 Degrees observers, and my initial thought was that it was a contrail, which are visible trails of condensed water vapour made by the exhaust of aircraft engines. The tell tale signs of the contrail are long, ropey strands of cloud that are heading in a different direction to the rest of the atmosphere. That's usually an indicator that something other than the atmosphere created it. However this one doesn't look like a classic contrail.

I decided to ask for a second opinion from John Hammond at the Met Office and he told me that if there is sufficient moisture in the atmosphere, condensation trails can last for some time. Because the trail appears to stop as it runs into a veil of Cirrostratus cloud he thinks the cloud is shielding it and that's changing its appearance. So it's just a contrail playing tricks with my eyes.

The photos don't scream out contrail, maybe just whisper it, and it's because of that sniff of doubt perhaps you'd like to comment on it. What do you think it is? Remember that you too can add your weird and wonderful weather phenomena photos to the 23 Degrees photo pool and we can decipher here.

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