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Ship Tracks in the North Pacific Ocean
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Ship Tracks in the North Pacific Ocean

July 20, 2010
The waters over the North Pacific Ocean were covered in interesting cloud formations. As ships moved about the ocean, thin, streaky clouds formed, leaving a visible, though impermanent, record of where the ships had recently been. Ship tracks can last for hours, and give clues as to their age and the relative speed of the ships by their shape and diffuseness. The faster the ship, the narrower, longer, and less diffuse the ship track will be. Slower ships will leave shorter, wider, and more diffuse ship tracks.

When ships emit tiny airborne particles into a clean, relatively stable and very humid air-mass, conditions are ideal for cloud formation, and ship tracks form. Consequently, these types of clouds are most common over major shipping lanes on large bodies of water, such as the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, though they have even been observed over the North American Great Lakes.

This image was captured by the MODIS on the Aqua satellite on July 3, 2010.


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