Cirrus Streaks Over El Paso, Texas

May 20, 2010

Cirrus el paso

Photographer: Chris L. Grohusko
Summary Author: Chris L. Grohusko; Jim Foster

The photo above showing milky, cirrus streaks in an azure blue sky was taken above El Paso, Texas. These high altitude clouds, typically found above 4 mi (about 6.4 km), are composed of hexagonal ice crystals. They may take on any number of shapes, but because they reside at altitudes where jet streams prevail and thus strong wind shear occurs, they most often have linear or streamlined forms. When wispy tails appear, they’re referred to as “mare’s tails.” On this mid spring morning, their formation was prompted by southwest winds streaming in from Baja California at a speed of approximately 120 mph (about 54 meters per second), following a trajectory along the northern edge of a high pressure system to the south of El Paso.

Note the waning, gibbous Moon seemingly taking refuge among the cirrus; though, its rounded shape gives it away. Photo taken on May 5, 2010 at approximately 9:00 a.m local time.