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Atlanta Woman Captures "Railroad Track" Clouds in Sky

What caused this?

When most people think of clouds, they imagine fluffy, cotton-ball cumulus clouds, wispy cirrus, or towering, dark cumulonimbus thunderheads. Anything else in the sky seems….well, a touch unusual. Is it any wonder that people go nuts every time they see a flying saucer-shaped lenticular cloud, or why there are so many conspiracy theories about jet trails, which are simple expulsions of water vapor at high altitudes where planes travel?

This Georgia woman was baffled by a recent cloud formation she was able to film over her city street — one that looked like a set of railroad tracks across the sky.

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So what is going on here? Are we finally getting some kind of space elevator? Is Amtrak going airborne? Is it some kind of alien skywriting?

No, it turns out it’s just another mysterious artifact of the jet set. Just as jets can leave long contrails in the air, they can also create other strange cloud formations, depending on the atmospheric conditions of the air they are flying through.

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In this case, the air is filled with altocumulus clouds, which are mid-atmosphere clouds that appear as patches of rounded cloud clumps. As a jet flies through these formations, the physical properties of lift with allow the plane to fly create vortices of air surrounding the plane, which curl the present water vapor into tiny swirls. The effects of these vortices, combined with the vapor trail the plane is cutting through the patch as a whole, is responsible for that “train track” shape in the sky. 

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