When they tower over the world's oceans, the dimensions are usually so enormous that from below you can only tell: It's cloudy.
Where exactly a marine stratocumulus cloud begins and ends cannot be seen from Earth.
The eternal gray and white can often be found over the oceans.
Marine stratocumulus clouds hang at relatively low altitudes - typically less than 2000 meters.
On average, almost a quarter of the world's oceans — or 15 percent of the entire surface of the earth — is covered with these clouds, according to data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites.
The device recorded particularly large specimens of the clouds on August 25, 2022 about 1.5 kilometers west of Chile over the Pacific, NASA published the image on Friday.
The region is predestined for the frequent occurrence of clouds.
Their impressive shapes and patterns become clear from space.
rain or no rain?
The image shows two subcategories of clouds that occur in mid-latitudes, such as in Europe, and, as here, in the subtropics: open-cell and closed-cell clouds (see image below).
One of these forms in particular makes it rain on earth.
Both clouds form in a similar way: when warm air rises over the ocean and expands, only to cool again in higher layers.
Then liquid condenses, droplets are formed, which form into clouds.
In open-cell clouds, cool air sinks in the center and warmer air rises at the edges.
In the case of clouds with closed cells, the opposite is true: warmer air rises in the center and cooler air sinks at the cloud edges.
Open cell clouds appear as thin wisps.
They barely catch the sun's rays.
Closed-cell clouds are dense and closed.
They reflect heat into space and thus have a cooling effect on the area below them.
It seems counter-intuitive, but above all the clouds with open cells bring rain, while specimens with closed cells and cloud cover hardly ever bring rain.
As a result, the former usually dissipate within a few hours - they rain down - while the latter persist for up to half a day.
Air quality affects cloud shape
Closed-cell stratocumulus clouds are more likely to form over colder regions of the ocean, while open-cell clouds are more likely to form over higher air circulation.
Air quality also plays a role, recent studies show.
Smoke, dust particles, and aerosols emitted by ships and factories, for example, can cause clouds to transition from one subtype to the other.
Meteorologists use exceptions like these to study cloud behavior more closely and improve weather forecasts and climate models.