The typically dour British skies have lit up with color, as an unusual display of nacreous clouds has graced the famously overcast nation during the past few days.
The iridescent phenomenon may lace the sky with the light pastel colors of a Manet painting, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the lucky Britons who get to see it. Nacreous cloud crystals actually facilitate the chemical reactions that break down our ozone layer, exacerbating climate change. Those psychedelic smears are more common at the poles, where they’re largely responsible for depleting ozone.
The “mother-of-pearl” clouds form tiny ice crystals 12 to 15 miles off the ground in the stratosphere when it is extremely cold — below -83 degrees Celsius. The crystals not only refract the sunlight, giving off the unique display, but they promote chemical interactions between the ozone and pollutants like chlorine and bromine that destroy the Earth’s insulating layer.
As the Earth itself heats due to ozone depletion trapping more sunlight, the stratosphere may actually be getting colder, resulting in the spread of nacreous clouds down into view of the Brits. So they may be a harbinger of our approaching doom, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the pretty colors in the meantime!
Whoa. What’s the problem again?Photos via Alan Light; Wikipedia