When I started exploring GOES satellite images of cloud cover (such as this), I noticed clouds could form from "plumes." That is, large clouds could sometimes form by billowing up from one or more very small points. For example, this gif created from GOES-East GeoColor band data on June 13 2021:

image description: clouds rise from about 10-15 points across the state of Mississippi and begin to combine.

I haven't looked at a huge amount of data, but I have noticed this effect is pretty common and is often seen over the Southeast US, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Gulf Stream out to around the middle of the Atlantic. In other words, warm and wet places. :)

My question is: when clouds form in this way, why don't they arise from larger areas -- what makes those specific "cloud source points" special? And when "cloud source points" do form, what keeps them (usually) localized to small regions -- what keeps these small nucleation points (usually) stable against growth in area?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Naravi Look up thermals $\endgroup$
    – user1066
    Jun 14, 2021 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ @gansub yup, that looks right! You can post that as the answer if you'd like, or I could. $\endgroup$
    – Natavi
    Jun 15, 2021 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


These look to be Thermals to me . They form as a result of strong day time heating and vertical ascent in the lowest part of the planetary boundary layer. It's not clear what time of day the satellite image is but if it were around after 12 noon then that appears like cumulus clouds that have formed as a result of day time heating.


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