Cloud Streets in the Gulf of Mexico
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Cloud Streets in the Gulf of Mexico

October 28, 2009
"Cloud streets" are visible stretching out into the Gulf of Mexico in this image captured by the MODIS on the Aqua satellite on October 18, 2009. These clouds are really cumulous clouds, which result from thermals, or rising columns of warmed air. Thermals themselves form when the ground surface is a little warmer than its surroundings. If the thermal produces a consistent flow of warm air, and steady wind carries that air away, lines of clouds can form along the direction of the wind.

At the point where the clouds first form streets, they're very narrow and well-defined. But as they age, they lose their definition, and begin to spread out and rejoin each other into a larger cloud mass.

There is also a few active fires in the region, marked with red dots. One has a visible smoke plume. Sediment from the Mississippi River, running roughly down the center of the image, fills the Delta as it opens into the Gulf of Mexico. Mixed with the tan sediment are blue and green swirls that indicate a bloom of tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton.

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