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DRAMATIC SKIES: a look into Tuesday’s cloud formation

Dramatic Skies over Central Mississippi Tuesday
Dramatic Skies over Central Mississippi Tuesday(Ian Salamonson, Madison County)
Updated: Feb. 25, 2020 at 1:07 PM CST
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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - This morning had some different cloud formations in the sky that left many scratching their heads Tuesday morning.

We began to see it emerge from the morning fog, but was pretty noticeable on the satellite imagery, showing a sharp cut-off from where the sun was shining, north and west of Metro Jackson; to the clouds and fog, generally south and east of Metro Jackson.

There were a few different factors that emerged to create the, at times, eerie scene over the region today.

First off, let’s start down near the surface and the most noticeable thing for most on their morning commute - the fog. The diagram below is called a Skew-T/Log-P - this is the reading from the morning balloon launch from the National Weather Service office in Jackson. The red line is temperature, the green line is dewpoint. To create fog, typically, you need light winds, high moisture and an inversion.

Morning Fog Caused By Inversion
Morning Fog Caused By Inversion(NOAA SPC Archives)

Typically, temperatures will turn colder with height. If you were to have taken off from Jackson, the surface was 47 degrees - go up to 18,000 feet, it was about 5 degrees. With an inversion, temperatures warmed with height near the surface - causing moisture to be trapped and create a cloud. Ultimately, this created the fog this morning.

Then go farther up in the sky - notice the green line (dewpoint) get farther and farther away from the red line (temperature), to a point it actually goes off the chart - meaning there is a a lot of dry air eating away any clouds. Those clouds streaking through the skies this morning, were doing so at around 12,000 to 18,000 feet. The much drier air began to eat away at the clouds directly over the region.

Compare the sounding at Jackson (JAN) to this one from Slidell (LIX) - the dewpoint line and temperature line are much closer, leading to a thicker cloud deck this morning, that end yielded a few showers.

Thick Clouds Covering New Orleans
Thick Clouds Covering New Orleans(NOAA SPC Sounding Archive)

Ultimately, the end result this morning was the dramatic skies over parts of central Mississippi. Nothing crazy. Nothing wild. Just a difference in moisture causing a sharp cut-off in the clouds as the line slowly moved south.

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