The skies over the Yellow Sea were decorated with beautiful clouds patterns on December 20, 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite flew over the region on that same date, and captured this stunning true-color image.
Snow covers the Korean Peninsula, while gray haze hangs over China’s mainland. Bright white clouds grace the skies offshore. The most striking cloud pattern is seen over the Yellow Sea, between China and the Korean Peninsula. Here the clouds form parallel rows, primarily aligned from northwest to southeast. Two additional rows bend in arcs on either side of the main cloud band, one in the northeast near Cheju Island, and another off the coast of Zhejiang Province, China. All align with the prevailing wind.
These parallel rows of clouds are called “cloud streets”, and are common in this area when strong northerly winds prevail over the Yellow Sea in the winter. Such winds bring the inland air, which is cold and dry, over the warm, moist sea surface. As the cold air moves over the warmer sea, some of the air will warm and become more humid, and begin to rise. The steady wind and the upward convection create a rolling turbulence, with air rising and falling in a regular pattern. Where the newly moist, warm air rises, clouds form. As the air cools and falls, clouds dissipate. Together these waves and troughs create the beautifully regular cloud-and-clear pattern.