Cooling Tower Clouds

July 21, 2013


Photographer: Hans Juergen Heyen
Summary Authors: Hans Juergen Heyen; Jim Foster

The photo above showing angular clouds arising from the cooling towers (not visible) of a power station was snapped near dusk from Meerbusch, Germany, approximately 19 miles (30 km) to the north of the towers in Grevenbroich. Water that’s been heated in the power production process, here the power source is coal, is typically moved to a facility where it can be cooled and later reused. The water is cooled by a forced airstream, a small portion of which mixes with the airstream itself as it’s forced out of cooling towers or stacks. During cool, damp conditions, cumulus clouds can sometimes be observed above the stacks. On this morning, the rising clouds abruptly change direction several hundred meters above the stacks. An inversion layer caps their vertical growth, but light westerly winds force the clouds to take on a nearly 90 degree angle. Photo taken on November 29, 2009.