This satellite image shows pockets of open cells (POCS) in stratocumulus clouds over the Southeast Pacific Ocean.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of the MODIS Science Team at NASA GSFC
Clouds That Have Pockets with Open Cells
Stratocumulus clouds are commonly found over the ocean in the Southeast Pacific region. These clouds can contain clear areas in the clouds that scientists call "pockets of open cells," or POCs. Scientists think that drizzle is responsible for the formation of POCs. They have also found a connection between drizzle and aerosols in the atmosphere.
Aerosols are tiny particles in the air that water droplets condense on within clouds during cloud formation. The concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere may impact the structure of the clouds (this is what you would see if you looked down on stratocumulus clouds from an airplane or a satellite). When there are fewer aerosols in the atmosphere, the cloud droplets that form on these aerosols are larger and produce more drizzle. This is when POCs form in the clouds. When there is a higher concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere, the cloud droplets that form are smaller and don't produce drizzle. These clouds contain closed cells.
Understanding the reasons for this difference in cloud structure is one of the objectives of the VOCALS project. Scientists studying the climate in the Southeast Pacific are trying to learn more about the amounts of aerosols and how they affect the presence of POCs in the clouds, as well as how they impact the amount of drizzle these clouds produce.
You might also be interested in:
Stratocumulus clouds belong to the Low Cloud (surface-2000m) group. These clouds are low, lumpy, and gray. These clouds can look like cells under a microscope - sometimes they line up in rows and other...more
The Southeast Pacific Ocean region off the coastal areas of Peru and Chile is one part of the world where stratus and stratocumulus clouds are frequently present. Other areas include the subtropical climate...more
Drizzle is light precipitation that is made up of liquid water drops that are smaller than rain drops. Drizzle can be so light that only a millimeter of water falls to the Earth's surface in one day. It...more
When you look up at the sky, you are looking at more than just air. There are also billions of tiny bits of solid and liquid floating in the atmosphere. Those tiny floating particles are called aerosols...more
Condensation is the process by which water changes its state from a vapor or gas to a liquid. Condensation is responsible for the formation of clouds. Common examples of condensation are: dew forming on...more
A cloud is composed of tiny water droplets or ice crystals that are suspended in the air. A series of processes have to happen in order for these water droplets or ice crystals to form into clouds in the...more
When clouds form they contain millions of water droplets in each cubic meter of air. Each of the cloud droplets forms on a particle; scientists call a collection of particles an aerosol. These particles...more