Weather Blog

'Soap bubble' clouds appear over Antarctica

'Soap bubble' clouds appear over Antarctica
Nacreous clouds appear over McMurdo Station in Antarctica. (Photo courtesy: Jeff Fogg)

Issaquah's Jeff Fogg has been working down at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica for nearly a year and a half now, and just sent back some more photos and videos of his adventures down there as for the first time in his career, he's just spent an entire winter there, instead of just 6-month summer tours.

While working through weeks of constant darkness in temperatures that sometimes would register lower than your home thermometer would even care to put on its scale, there are some benefits -- witnessing some natural beauty that few on Earth will ever get to see.

Earlier this month, Fogg captured these photos of what are officially called "nacreous clouds" but a more common term might just be "Soap bubble" clouds as the pastel colors they represent look akin to the colors a soap bubble sometimes reflects. Others call them "mother of pearl" clouds.

The clouds form from icy conditions in the lower stratosphere and as you can imagine, they have plenty of "icy conditions" down there.

The clouds are typically seen when the sun is just below the horizon -- a place it spends a whole lot of time in Antarctica.

McMurdo officially spends from April 25 to Aug. 19 without an official sunrise (although you do get a glow on the horizon near those dates as the sun approaches, but doesn't breach the horizon).

The area then goes through a wild transition in August and September, adding roughly 15 minutes of daylight a day until reaching Oct. 22 when the sun rises at 12:49 p.m. (after setting at 12:24 p.m.) and stays above the horizon until it sets at 12:16 p.m. on Feb. 20. The days then get 15 minutes shorter until...the sun is gone again.

Here is a sunrise/sunset chart, for those curious: (Click image to enlarge)

Fogg is scheduled to come back home sometime later this month or early next month, weather depending. But if you want to see what he's going through now, here is a live web camera.