What caused a mystery hole in the clouds above California?

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Photos that have emerged of a bizarre cloud formation over Northern California are causing social media users to wonder: Is the truth out there?

The strange snapshots have popped up all across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and show a bright, unusual hole in the otherwise undisturbed clouds over Stockton on Friday afternoon.

Now curious-minded folks in California and around the globe are speculating about what caused the phenomenon and some say its weird appearance belies an even weirder cause.

 What caused a mystery hole in the clouds above California

#ufo? A strange cloud formation that hovered above Southern California on Friday afternoon had social media users wondering if the truth really is out there…above a Stockton high school

‘So the @WhiteHouse¬† wants you to believe what happened over the skies of Stockton yesterday was a “cloud formation” ? GTFOH #iKnowWhatiSaw,’ tweeted @CaPtDCharles.

Much of the speculation suggested that the bright cloud a UFO or somehow caused by extraterrestrial life.

However, there were plenty of other theories.

Mystery: A local news station tweeted this pic of a phenomenon they identified as a Fallstreak hole or hole punch cloud, but not everyone who saw it was convinced the explanation was so simple

Mystery: A local news station tweeted this pic of a phenomenon they identified as a Fallstreak hole or hole punch cloud, but not everyone who saw it was convinced the explanation was so simple

Room for debate: The formation appeared to change colors at different angles and could be seen over a wide area of town, further fueling the social media speculation

Room for debate: The formation appeared to change colors at different angles and could be seen over a wide area of town, further fueling the social media speculation

‘Stockton, interesting stuff happening there as always…weather manipulation much? hmm,’ tweeted @AceThePhantom.

@NGC postulated something a bit more cinematic:

‘Is that the wormhole from Donnie Darko?’ he wondered.

Where most of the photos appeared across the internet, posters identified the phenomenon as a hole punch cloud or Fallstreak hole.

A similar phenomenon in 2010 also caused rampant speculation.

CBS13 notes that such formations are common in many parts of the globe but are rarely seen in places as warm as Stockton.

FALLSTREAK HOLES: SIMPLE EXPLANATION FOR THIS STRIKING ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENON?

A Fallstreak hole hovers ominously over the western United States

A Fallstreak hole hovers ominously over the western United States

Holes in clouds are most commonly called either hole punch clouds or Fallstreak holes.

These atmospheric phenomena are believed to be caused by the combined action of both mother nature and man.

For the Fallstreak hole to begin, cirrocumulus or altocumulus must contain super-cooled water which cannot freeze without a tiny particle to first cling to.

Scientific opinion as to what finally causes the ice to form and begin to crystallize in the atmosphere has only solidified in recent years as meteorologists have become more certain that airplanes flying through the clouds start the process.

Air passing along propeller blades or wings expands and cools rapidly. The ice crystals begin to form and after the plane is long gone, the crystals can still be seen where they’ve dropped down below the cloud.

What’s left above the drifting ice particles is a round hole in the cloud that can sometimes be spectacularly large.

And if the sun catches the particles at just the right angle, another phenomenon called a sun dog can form as a bright patch of colored light hovering in the sky.

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