Footage of cloud formation misrepresented as UFOs

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A video shared across social media after the US shot down four objects in February 2023 purports to show evidence of aliens in the sky. This is false; the clip shows a meteorological phenomenon known as "hole punch clouds."

"With all the past UFOs shot down this past week, this just seems crazy," says a February 12, 2023 tweet sharing a video of three circular cloud holes set against a blue sky.

Screenshot of a tweet taken February 16, 2023

The same footage circulated on Twitter in several languages, with some posts hinting at extraterrestrial activities.

"Joe, send the rockets," says another tweet sharing the clip.

The posts came amid the mid-February shootdowns of a Chinese surveillance balloon and three other unidentified objects over North America. The Pentagon has said none appeared armed or posed any threat of attack.

"We don't yet know exactly what these three objects were," US President Joe Biden said February 16. "Nothing right now suggests they're related to China's spy balloon program or ... surveillance vehicles from any other countries."

But the White House has also noted there is "no indication" of alien activity -- and the video shared online depicts a rare meteorological phenomenon.

'Hole punch clouds'

The clip in the posts has been circulating since at least January 2023.

"They're coming," says a January 26 TikTok post viewed nearly nine million times, accompanied by the hashtags "alien" and "spaceship."

Screenshot of a TikTok video taken February 15, 2023

That same day, journalists tweeted similar images of three clouds in Central Texas. Media outlets and the National Weather Service (NWS) reported on the meteorological phenomenon.

AFP was unable to independently verify the origin of the footage shared online. But Paul Yura, a Texas-based warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS, confirmed the video shows "fallstreak holes," or "hole punch clouds."

The phenomenon occurs when an airplane passes through clouds that contain water that is freezing but not frozen. The droplets crystallize, and their resulting weight creates clouds with visible holes.

"I can't confirm that the video was exactly those same San Antonio clouds," Yura said. "(But) I did compare the video to the few still image photos I have from others in the San Antonio area that day and it looks similar. It is definitely a video of fallstreak holes."

In Texas, such clouds are "fairly rare but do occasionally occur," he said.

AFP has debunked other supposed footage of UFO sightings here.