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SOLVED: NASA Discovers Huge Holes in the Skies Over Florida, and Disney World & Universal Guests Are to Blame

holes in clouds over florida
Credit: Disney/Universal/Canva

When a person or place experiences a string of unfortunate events, they are often described as having a black cloud over them. But what does it mean when certain places have, instead, holes in the clouds above them? Such is the case for the state of Florida, and according to NASA, part of the blame lies at the feet of visitors to Disney World and Universal Studios Resort in Central Florida.

universal disney world black holes in clouds

Credit: Universal/Disney/Canva

NASA’s Terra Satellite

On December 18, 1999, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched its Terra satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California. The Terra satellite was put into a sun-synchronous orbit, which means it is always in the same fixed position relative to the sun and passes over the same location at the same time each day.

It began collecting data about the earth’s changes on February 24, 2000, from an altitude of 438 miles above the earth’s surface.

NASA terra satellite

NASA’s Terra satellite in orbit/Credit: NASA

While capturing images and taking measurements of Earth’s atmosphere, as well as the surface of the Earth and water on the surface, the Terra satellite also captured images of the skies above Florida which depicted the presence of strange clouds that baffled scientists and ultimately remained a mystery for decades.

Now, however, experts have a better understanding of the meaning of the images, thanks to research that was conducted more than 13 years ago. They also have a clearer understanding of the meaning behind something that happened in the skies over Florida on January 30, 2024.

Images of the Skies Over Florida

A photo captured by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on the Terra satellite on January 30 showed a cluster of figures that were circular or elliptical in shape. The figures looked like they had been cut from the surrounding clouds and featured “feathery wisps” in the middle of the cut-out shapes, according to NASA.

nasa terra satellite finds holes in clouds over florida

Credit: NASA

Images of the strange figures were captured in the skies over the state of Florida, and though they seemed mysterious at first, scientists now have an explanation for the figures–and it has to do with tourism in the Sunshine State.

airplane seaworld orlando disney world universal studios orlando

Credit: SeaWorld/Disney Parks/Universal Studios/Canva

Cavum Clouds 

The Terra satellite captured images of cavum clouds, which are also known as hole punch clouds or fallstreak holes.

NASA explains that cavum clouds are caused by airplanes that move through groups of altocumulus clouds. The information comes from a study published by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in 2010 and 2011.

map of florida with airplane flying over and clouds

Credit: Canva

According to NASA, these clouds are made of supercooled water droplets that remain in a liquid state even when the temperature is below 32°F.

“Supercooling happens when water droplets are exceptionally pure and lack small particles, such as dust, fungal spores, pollen, or bacteria, around which ice crystals typically form,” NASA said. “Supercooling may sound exotic, but it occurs routinely in Earth’s atmosphere. Altocumulus clouds, which cover about 8 percent of Earth’s surface at any given time, are mostly composed of liquid water droplets supercooled to a temperature of about five degrees Fahrenheit.”

But NASA points out that the supercooled clouds have limits.

Airplanes Over Florida Are to Blame

“As air moves around the wings and past the propellers of airplanes, a process known as adiabatic expansion cools the water by an additional 68 degrees Fahrenheit or more and can push liquid water droplets to the point of freezing without the help of airborne particles,” NASA said.

“Ice crystals [give way to] beget more ice crystals as the liquid droplets continue to freeze. The ice crystals eventually grow heavy enough that they begin to fall out of the sky, leaving a void in the cloud layer,” NASA continued. “The falling ice crystals are often visible in the center of the holes as wispy trails of precipitation that never reach the ground—features called virga.

virga clouds

Credit: Flickr/Tom Harnish/Canva

Scientists at UCAR have discovered that when airplanes of varying sizes and types pass through clouds, they can produce cavum clouds or canal clouds. When plans pass through clouds at a sharp angle, the result is cavum clouds, and when planes pass through clouds at a longer, more shallow angle, the result is canal clouds.

According to scientists, the conditions are right for planes to produce cavum clouds, especially at Miami International Airport, where there are more than 1,000 arrival flights every day.

orlando international airport

Orlando International Airport/Credit: Orlando-Airports

Closer to the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando, the same is true for planes at Orlando International Airport.

Because Central Florida is a major tourist destination, the airport welcomes approximately 160,000 passengers on 1,060 arriving flights daily, many of whom have traveled to the area en route to the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios Orlando Resort for family vacations.

sea world disney world universal studios orlando theme parks

Credit: SeaWorld Orlando/Disney Parks/Universal Studios/Canva

Isn’t it interesting to think that Disney fandom is responsible for at least a part of the strange images captured by NASA’s Terra satellite? It gives a whole new meaning to the Disney World experience being “out of this world.”

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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