I'm flying to Hartford from Dallas today. As we headed to the airport, the weather in Dallas was deteriorating quickly. Ice storms were predicted for the morning, and we seemed to be just a wee bit ahead of the front. By the time I was pulling my suitcase from the back of the car, a cold drizzle was falling steadily. I'm expecting a bumpy ride and the word is that this bad weather will follow me from Texas to New England. I'm simply hoping that it's not so bad as to change my return plans.
Shortly after reaching our cruising altitude, I glanced out of the window to see an almost solid layer of clouds—with a very bumpy surface. Then I noticed a line through the clouds with every appearance of having been cut by a knife. I wondered if the clouds had been cut apart by an airplane flying through them or if this was the junction between two independent clouds.
I grabbed my camera from my backpack and snapped a couple of pictures. With the sun shining so brightly on the clouds, all the bumps were easy to see. The higher portions were more brightly lit than the lower ones. And therefore, the long, dark swath across the surface of the clouds was clearly a cut or crease in the cloud's upper surface.
So, what's the source? What caused this cleavage in the almost unbroken expanse of clouds? Since I'm still aboard the airplane, I can't turn to Google to search for meteorological information. I asked the head flight attendant, but not only did she not know, she'd never even seen such at thing. She said, “I never look out”—but she did suggest that I might ask one of the pilots after we land. And I might just do so.
Even though I fly regularly—one might even say too regularly— it's still almost miraculous. This large tube containing over 100 people, propelled by two or three engines (OK, they're massive engines), guided by two pilots and a lot of electronic gear, flings itself into the sky. Unbelievably, the air holds it up for hours and hours. Outside, it's bitterly cold with insufficient oxygen to support life. Inside, while not as warm as I'd like, passengers and crew are safe and comfortable. (OK, I'll admit that when you're sitting in the middle seat, you're not all that comfortable, but you get what I mean—it's comfortable by comparison to outside.)
We're 45 minutes from Hartford and have outrun the cloud cover. Below me I see snow and ice. I'm not looking forward to the cold, and I'm particularly uneasy that the bad weather will arrive with more snow or freezing rain to shut down flights on Thursday. Now why can't all my business engagements in the winter be scheduled for Miami, San Diego, or Puerto Rico?