The plane truth: What made this spooky-looking cloud near Portland?

A rather surreal sight greeted visitors to the Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge on Sunday: A cloud formation that might be described as maybe a floating centipede, or some sort of feathery vortex?

Instead, it was simply a pilot flying their plane through a cloud layer and dragging some ice crystals along for the ride. The result is what's known as a "hole punch" cloud, or sometimes a "fall streak" cloud.

"These form when an airplane flies through super-cooled clouds and disturbs them enough that the precipitate out as ice crystals," according to meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Portland.

Despite planes taking off and landing thousands of times a day, these clouds are fairly rare to spot and need just the right kind of cloud layer and atmospheric setup to where the clouds will react in this way.

And of course, the displays are quite exciting themselves.

"We are nerding out super hard over here," NWS Portland said.


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