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No. 53: Sep-Oct 1987

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Are the soviet plumes only orographic clouds?

F.C. Parmenter-Holt, a NOAA scientist, has reacted to the recent discussions of Soviet plume events as follows:

"I believe that these clouds are naturally occurring, orographically-induced formations. When winds blow perpendicular to the 2,500-plus foot glacial ridge, along the northern portion of the island, a long gravitywave pattern is established downwind, on the lee side. The cases collected by Matson show sharp boundaries conforming to the contour of this glacial barrier."

The Matson reference is Science News, March 28, 1987, p. 204. (Parmenter-Holt, Frances C.; "Plumes and Peaks," Science News, 131:403, 1987.)

Comment. Parmenter-Holt could well be correct in some cases, for wave-like orographic clouds often form in the lee of mountain ranges, such as the Rockies. Some of the plumes, however, extend for 175 kilometers, as described above. This is pretty long for a glacial ridge. Then, too, one should inquire whether such plumes occur near similar ridges in northern climes and not just over Soviet territory.

From Science Frontiers #53, SEP-OCT 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987