- 10 Photos
- These strange features in the sky, called Von Karman cloud vortices, appeared in May 2007 near the Aleutian Islands. They were caused not by airplanes or aliens but by the wind's interaction with the topography of the islands. (Photo: NASA/Various)
For years, meteorologists have noticed and speculated upon odd holes that develop in the cloud cover as if punched out by God's ice pick. The consensus grew that these lacunae were being generated by passing aircraft, which spread enough energy to change floating supercooled water droplets into ice that drifted down out of the high skies.
Now, a new study published in Science suggests that these manmade holes have unusual weather-changing properties. In about 5 percent of the cases under investigation (10 to 15 percent in the winter), the precipitation knocked loose by jets from the so-called "punch-hole clouds" caused a measurable increase in rain or snowfall near airports, according to the team of Andrew J. Heymsfield of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. It's a minimal, but demonstrative, example of how humans can cause changes in weather patterns. Here's another.
Of course, some folks have a hard time believing these holes are entirely humanity's doing. This strange formation over Moscow a couple years ago had "scores of supernatural enthusiasts" gripped by what "could be an ALIEN MOTHERSHIP," if the U.K.'s Sun can be believed.
So: airplanes or UFOs? Visit this holetastic photo gallery and make up your own mind. (Hint: It's not hard.)