Related video: Storms bring unique cloud formations to Tampa Bay area

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s hole punch season! Hole punch cloud season that is, otherwise known as fall streak holes.

They’re not ‘out of this world’ or even ‘geo-engineered’. They form naturally in clouds that are very high up in our atmosphere, especially this time of the year.

Hole punch’ clouds over Clearwater. (Zane Liebrum)

Most clouds are made out of small water droplets. Clouds that form higher up in our atmosphere during colder months where air temperatures are below freezing, like cirrocumulus or altocumulus, are typically ice crystals, but not always.

Fallstreak or ‘hole punch’ cloud in Tampa Bay.

Sometimes clouds at higher altitudes can be made out of ‘supercooled’ water droplets. The temperature of a supercooled water droplet is below freezing, but the droplet remains in liquid form. When the entire cloud is make out of these supercooled droplets, the cloud looks normal to us on the ground.

Two ‘hole punch’ clouds in Tampa Bay.

However, it doesn’t take much for the supercooled droplets to freeze and transition to ice crystals, but it does take something for that transition to happen. Typically the transition happens when there is a disturbance that passes by or ice crystals are introduced to the cloud.

Most often, it is a plane traveling through the cloud, or nearby, that kickstarts the transition. Once one water droplet forms into an ice crystal, it is like a domino effect. The water droplets surrounding that first ice crystal will then also begin that transition.

As the transition is happening throughout the cloud, the ice crystals gather together and sink. The new group of ice crystals drops below the main cloud. This creates a ‘hole’ like effect from the main cloud which we see down from the surface. The new ice crystal cloud typically has a featherlike edge.

Fallstreak or 'hole punch' cloud in Tampa Bay on November 9, 2023. Credit: Laurie Beaty
Fallstreak or ‘hole punch’ cloud in Tampa Bay on November 9, 2023. Credit: Laurie Beaty