stmophere ship tracks nasa
© NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response
The stunning image reveals the impact that ships passing through the Atlantic Ocean have on the clouds above
A stunning image captured by a Nasa satellite reveals the impact that ships passing through the Atlantic Ocean have on the clouds above.

The image shows a patchwork of bright, criss-crossing cloud trails off the coast of Portugal and Spain, known as ship tracks.

Ship tracks form when water vapour condenses around tiny particles of pollution that ships emit as exhausts. These incredible clouds typically form in areas where low-lying stratus and cumulus clouds are present.

Nasa  Aqua satellite
© NASA
The image was taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on board Nasa’s Aqua satellite
In a blog about the image, a spokesperson for Nasa said: "Some of the pollution particles generated by ships (especially sulfates) are soluble in water and serve as the seeds around which cloud droplets form.

"Clouds infused with ship exhaust have more and smaller droplets than unpolluted clouds.

"As a result, the light hitting the polluted clouds scatters in many directions, making them appear brighter and thicker than unpolluted marine clouds, which are typically seeded by larger, naturally occurring particles such as sea salt."

The image was taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on board Nasa's Aqua satellite on January 16.

While the ship tracks may not look too long in the image, in reality, some stretch hundreds of kilometres from end to end. The narrow ends of the clouds are youngest, while the broader, wavier ends are older.