Virga clouds

A virga cloud (rain without reaching the ground) over La Palma
A virga cloud over La Palma Photo: Petra Berendsen




La Palma is on fire. See http://lapalma-island.com/another-forest-fire/ My house is quite safe, but not all my friends are. A lot of the south west of the island has burned, but the fire appears to be under some sort of control on most fronts.

Most of it is too depressing to talk about.

Anyway, as a result I learned about a new type of cloud. A virga cloud produces rain that doesn’t reach the ground. At the moment we’re getting quite a few because the clouds are full of smoke particles (plus some Sahara dust) so the water condenses into droplets and falls as rain easily, but once the rain leaves the cloud, it evaporates in the hot, dry air.

When I first saw them, for a few wild moments I thought it was actually going to rain and put out the fire. No such luck, of course. On the other hand, we now have 11 helicopters and planes doing a wonderful firefighting job. People under the flight path are putting sheets on their roofs saying “¡GRACIAS!” (Thank you!).

They’re marvellous, and so are the people on the ground.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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