Shadows of condensation trails (aka “cirrus aviaticus”)

It wouldn’t be surprising at all to hear that if a cloud moves in front of the sun, a shadow appears on the ground. But I recently observed pretty much the same thing and found it quite fascinating.

I was looking out of a plane window and saw long dark lines in the clouds below me. For quite some time I tried to come up with processes that might cause that. The line didn’t look like a lee wave of some very high tower. It also didn’t look like it was mirroring a channel or autobahn below. So what could it be?


That became quite obvious when I looked up (which I had tried to avoid before, because the spinning blades of the propeller were a bit unnerving): the dark line was the shadow of a plane’s condensation trail!


Not that surprising after all, but it took me surprisingly long to figure it out.


And it does look pretty cool, doesn’t it?


One thought on “Shadows of condensation trails (aka “cirrus aviaticus”)

  1. Pingback: Waves in the clouds | Mirjam S. Glessmer

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