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Where on Earth: Cloud Building in China

What are these white puffballs?
Credits

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute‚Äôs Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/  
  • 2020 NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview and Natural-color animation based on Himawari imagery, courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency 
  • Image of the Day story by Kathryn Hansen, NASA Earth Observatory:  https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146761/cloud-building-over-hainan 
  • Adaptation to ViewSpace by Claire Blome, Margaret W. Carruthers, and Dani Player
  • Music from Music for Nonprofits 
Transcript

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[GENTLE MUSIC]
 
(DESCRIPTION)
Satellite images of Earth pass in a moving collage. Text, Where on Earth? An island chain in the ocean with white puffy shapes over moutain peaks. What are these white puffballs?
 
A. Brush fires in New Zealand. B. Monsoon storms in Indonesia. C. Ash plumes off Ecuador's coast. D. Cumulonimbus clouds over China.
 
D is the correct answer. Cumulonimbus clouds over China.
 
Cloud Building in China. Image credit: Moderate Resolution Imagine Spectroradiometer, Aqua satellite. May 11, 2020. China's Hainan Island is known for frequent and severe lightning storms produced by towering thunderclouds like these. Starting in the morning, the Sun quickly heats up the island, warming the air above it. Imagery from Japan's Himawari 8 satellite, as sun reflects on the ocean, and clouds expand. As the warm air rises, cooler moist air moves in from the South China Sea, creating a sea breeze.
 
When moist ocean air reaches the mountains, or where it collides with other air masses, it is forced upward, causing it to cool and condense.
 
Convection can be particularly intense in areas where sea breezes from opposite sides of the island collide.
 
Towering thunderclouds like the ones seen here commonly form by mid-afternoon.
 
This region has the highest density of cloud-to-ground lightning in China.
 
Zooming out from Hainan Island on a map to the entire world. Music courtesy of Yesh Music, ASCAP.
 
Where on Earth?