Why hexagonal clouds don't solve Bermuda Triangle mystery
Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 11:27 AM - Over the last century, dozens of ships and airplanes have disappeared in the notorious Bermuda Triangle without explanation.
A satellite image showing hexagonal clouds in the area has been a source of speculation after the photo appeared in Science Channel's What on Earth series.
In an episode about the Bermuda Triangle, the hexagon-shaped clouds were said to create strong winds that form microbursts of air, also refereed to as "air bombs," which could be capable of bringing down planes and ships in the loosely defined area situated between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean.
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"They are formed by what are called microbursts and they are blasts of air that come down out of the bottom of a cloud and then hit the ocean and then create waves that can sometimes be massive in size as they start to interact with each other," meteorologist Randy Cerveny told Science Channel.
The hexagon-shaped clouds were discovered 240 km off the coast of Florida and over the Bahamas and range in size between 32 and 88 km in width.
Microbursts, according to Science Channel, are associated with winds up to 160 km/h, which are strong enough to produce waves as high as 12 metres.
The What On Earth episode further noted that similar cloud shapes were examined over the North Sea, off the coast of the UK. However, experts say while the clouds over the North Sea and the Bahamas may look the same, they interact with the ocean below in different ways.
"Microbursts are specific as they are produced by large thunderstorms," says The Weather Network meteorologist Scott Sutherland. "While they are powerful downdrafts of wind and can create large waves if they occur over water, these specific hexagonal cloud shapes are likely just due to the shape of the islands and the heating of the land, in comparison to the ocean water."
These hexagonal clouds are also referred to as open cell cloud formations and occur on a regular basis on the backside of a low pressure system or cyclone in the mid-latitudes, according to NASA.
"In the northern hemisphere, a low-pressure system will draw in surrounding air and spin it counterclockwise," a NASA explanation reads. "That means that on the back side of the low pressure center, cold air will be drawn in from the north, and on the front side, warm air will be drawn up from latitudes closer to the equator. This movement of an air mass is called advection, and when cold air advection occurs over warmer waters, open cell cloud formations often result."
According to the Washington Post, when Cerveny takes part in a segment for the show typically, "either you give the actual explanation, or the straw man explanation," the meteorologist said.
Cerveny offered the microburst explanation as a possible argument, but instead the segment offered it as a factual statement.
"The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement. "This is true all over the world. There is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in may other large, well-traveled area of the ocean."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally ran on Oct. 22, 2016. It has been updated and expanded to reflect current developments.