Lenticular clouds are saucer-shaped clouds that are often witnessed over mountains and mountain ranges.
Lenticular Cloud (as defined by NOAA)
A very smooth, round or oval, lens-shaped cloud that is often seen, singly or stacked in groups, near or in the lee of a mountain ridge.
Clouds are one of the most incredible natural phenomena. These mighty masses of liquid droplets and/or frozen crystals have been fascinating people from time immemorial. With varied and often magical shapes and appearances, they tend to be really enchanting at times. A truly mesmerizing experience is that of being amidst the clouds, when they tend to come down to meet the hills, mountains, and jungles that adorn our planet. Clouds are of different types, and have been categorized primarily, depending on their location in the sky. So, there are essentially three kinds of clouds viz., high level clouds, medium level clouds, and low level clouds. But for lay people, it is often easier to recognize clouds by their appearances and shapes, rather than their placement.
By far, one of the most interesting types of clouds are Lenticular clouds. These clouds with curious shapes can be generally found at high altitudes. This ScienceStruck article will give you information about Lenticular clouds.
Some Interesting Facts
Lenticular clouds over the mountains
◆ Lenticular clouds are more or less isolated clouds, which form in the Earth’s troposphere (the lowest level of the atmosphere).
◆ Lenticular clouds have very clearly defined shapes and outlines. They are saucer- or lens-shaped clouds, which are typically stationary in nature. This means that they do not move, but rather stay at one particular place.
◆ Essentially, Lenticular clouds have been divided into three different categories, viz., altocumulus standing Lenticular (ACSL), stratocumulus standing Lenticular (SCSL), and cirrocumulus standing Lenticular (CCSL), depending on the height at which they may be found above the surface of the Earth.
◆ On account of their typical shapes, Lenticular clouds have been mistakenly identified as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) in the past. Moreover, they have been offered as one of the most feasible explanations for numerous UFO sightings as well.
How do Lenticular Clouds Form?
◆ These clouds are generally found over mountainous/hilly areas, particularly in winter, and are known to form on the lee side of mountain ranges. Lee side is that side on the mountain/hill, which is, to a large extent, sheltered from the wind.
◆ Lenticular clouds are typically formed when moist air, which is relatively stable, flows in a vertical direction over a mountain.
◆ When this vertically moving air comes in contact with the horizontally moving upper-level wind in a nearly perpendicular manner, a deflection is caused, which results in the formation of several standing waves on the downwind side of the mountain.
◆ Lenticular clouds may be formed if the temperature of the wave’s crest goes on reducing, until it reaches the dew point. Dew point is the temperature at which the air’s water vapor condenses to the liquid state.
◆ However, the moment the temperature rises above the dew point, the Lenticular clouds tend to disappear, as the moisture evaporates in the form of vapor.
◆ Under certain particular defined conditions, Lenticular cloud formation takes place near the crest area of each of the standing waves. This leads to the creation of the so-called wave clouds.
◆ According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the process of formation and dissipation of Lenticular clouds goes on constantly and continuously near the crest of the atmospheric waves. This is why they appear to remain stationary. The fact, however, is that there is always a constant movement of wind through these clouds.
◆ While these clouds are mostly seen over mountainous terrains, there have been some rare instances, wherein they have been witnessed over flat/low-lying terrain as well. However, according to meteorologists, in such areas, their formation is not the result of atmospheric standing waves, but rather of fluctuating wind speeds, created by the action of atmospheric fronts.
◆ Pilots who fly powered aircraft, generally tend to avoid flying near these clouds. This is because the presence of the mountain wave results in severe turbulence of the aircraft’s rotor systems.
◆ In a way, Lenticular clouds warn pilots of the presence of mountain waves. Otherwise, when these clouds cannot form in the absence of enough moisture in the air, the presence of a mountain wave is hard to identify, and this can be potentially dangerous to the airplane.
◆ On the other hand, glider pilots tend to specifically look out for Lenticular clouds, as their orientation helps them ascertain the location of the rising air mass. This, in turn, helps the gliders to ascend to great heights and also to travel long distances.
Although it is true that numerous people across the world have never witnessed the wonder that is the Lenticular clouds, and/or are even not aware of the fact that such a thing even exists, those who have seen the magic will tell you how mesmerizing they are. More often than not, with the rising and setting of the Sun, you will find these lively clouds take on beautiful hues of the sky―needless to say, they are indeed a photographer’s fancy! Here are a few pictures of lenticular cloud formations, which will definitely inspire and enchant you.
UFO-shaped Lenticular cloud
Lenticular clouds colored in hues of the sunset
Lenticular cloud over Mt. Tongariro, New Zealand
Lenticular cloud over a house in Getxo, Spain
Lenticular clouds over an island, Faroe Islands
Lenticular clouds over Mojave Desert, U.S.A.
Lenticular cloud over Taos Mountains, U.S.A.
Lenticular cloud over Kendal, England
Lenticular clouds over Mt. Rainier, U.S.A.
Sometimes, we notice some really incredible and fascinating things that are not as beyond our comprehension as we think them to be. We don’t know if there are real flying saucers at all (there is not enough evidence). However many times, Lenticular clouds do seem to be a rather convincing explanation for the otherwise, unidentified, otherworldly objects that seem to invade our planet every now and then.