Sharp air mass boundaries, such as this one photographed by astronauts on board
the Space Shuttle on June 17 2002, often are the focus of development for severe
thunderstorms. This storm formed in the late afternoon over Eastern China. The
sunlit anvil tops of thunderstorms here are estimated to be in excess of 60,000
feet (18,300 m) where icy cirrus clouds form near the top of the troposphere.
The distribution and impact of such high clouds are a significant challenge to
scientists modeling the Earth’s energy budget and climate.
The crew of the International Space Station is attempting to acquire such
imagery over Florida this summer in support of a large, multi-agency experiment
CRYSTAL - FACE (Cirrus Regional Study of Tropical Anvils and Cirrus Layers -
Florida Area Cirrus Experiment). This experiment is designed to collect
measurements of clouds that will help improve climate models. Such photos have
the potential to provide profound, synoptic visuals for use in describing and
interpreting these measurements. More information on CRYSTAL ? FACE as well as
other images of the atmosphere are available at