Geology You Use Every Day weather

The Wonder of a Cloudy Oregon Sunrise

The sun rose like this today here in Oregon, a little ways inland from the Pacific Ocean – just peeping out under an overlying wall of clouds. But at dawn, the sky was almost crystal clear.

I’m not sure about this, but we may be one of the few places in the continental US where you could witness such a change in cloud cover today.

When I got up, shortly after the daily light show began, there were a few bars of clouds in the East, all rosy and golden rimmed. It was a delight to anticipate settling down with the morning coffee and watching the sun rise.

If you’ve visited the Pacific Northwest during winter, then you know that we operate on indirect lighting here during the winter for complex climate reasons (just substitute “Oregon” for “Washington” here, and change the name of some of the Cascade high spots).

So this morning’s sunrise looked to be a special treat. But as the sun got higher and higher, the sky clouded up, both east and west.

A lot of people would move on after that, perhaps turning back to their coffee and grumbling “Just my luck,” because seasonal affective disorder is a thing out here.

Fortunately, my research into the cat books (which began, but did not end, with this paper as I tried to understand how Earth’s climate had evolved along with some of the plaent’s most charismatic predators) taught me just how amazing that sudden cloudiness was.

Warm air contains more moisture than cold air, because science.

Obviously there is a lot of moisture in the air today, but it couldn’t condense because the air was so cold overnight.

As soon as sunlight warmed up the upper atmospheric layers, the air took in that moisture and clouds formed. That’s what I took a picture of – the clouds.

I think we might be one of the relatively few North Americans to see that today is because: (a) the rest of the country is caught in a deep freeze; (b) continental interiors tend to be dry.

What I don’t understand is why those clouds have disappeared, now that the Sun is well up in the sky. It must be a boundary thing, perhaps like water condensing on a cold glass of lemonade in summertime? Or pressure?

Ah, it takes so many words to describe something Nature does in seconds!

‘Scuse me – have to go finish that cup of coffee. It’s going to be a beautiful day.


About BJ Deming

After getting an associate's degree in forestry, I studied geology as an undergraduate back in the 1980s but went into medical transcription instead. It just worked out better for me. The Internet renewed my interest in geoscience as a hobby, and when I retired in 2014, I decided to write a book about cat evolution. That started a new career for me (enormous fun but not self-supporting yet). Right now, besides blogging I am finishing up the first two books in a self-published ebook series about the cat family and its history. Thanks for your interest!

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