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Rare nacreous clouds spotted over Highlands

By Ali Morrison

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Nacreous clouds over Strathpeffer.
Nacreous clouds over Strathpeffer.

The low winter sun on Christmas Eve morning provided ideal conditions in parts of the north for those at the right latitude to see a rare cloud type.

High in the atmosphere stratospheric temperatures fell to a level cold enough for Type II Polar Stratospheric Clouds (Nacreous Clouds) to form in parts of the Highlands, including Strathpeffer (with Harry Payne of Inverness sending in the photo above by his daughter Sarah, who lives in Strathpeffer).

They are also known as rainbow clouds.

Earlier in the day, photos were also shared on various social media groups of sightings seen in Perth, Dundee and Lossiemouth.

And at sunset around 3.30pm yesterday the display continued with some seen in Inverness.

Polar stratospheric clouds occur at altitudes of 15,000–25,000 m (49,000–82,000 ft).

While normally best observed at sunset when the sun is between one and six degrees below the horizon, the low level of the winter sun has made them visible.

Generally made of supercooled droplets of water it takes this combination of angle and cloud to create the lenticular forms of these pearlescent clouds, conditions which were also seen over Aberdeenshire.

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