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Most Fascinating Clouds In The World ~ Some Look Like Angels ~ Virga And Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds

Updated on October 26, 2012

Nature is so beautiful....

Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, like the ones seen recently over Birmingham, Alabama.
Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, like the ones seen recently over Birmingham, Alabama.
Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, so beautiful!
Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, so beautiful!
Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, nature can be so fascinating!
Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, nature can be so fascinating!
Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, especially pretty at sunset.
Kelvin Helmholtz clouds, especially pretty at sunset. | Source
"Virga" clouds, also known as "tree clouds." Fascinating!
"Virga" clouds, also known as "tree clouds." Fascinating!
Virga cloud that I think looks just like an angel. :)
Virga cloud that I think looks just like an angel. :)
More "Virga" clouds, this picture gave me goosebumps, with my imagination, I thought they look like Angels descending on the earth...
More "Virga" clouds, this picture gave me goosebumps, with my imagination, I thought they look like Angels descending on the earth...
More pretty "Virga" clouds at sunset over Arizona. I guess they are common in the desert.
More pretty "Virga" clouds at sunset over Arizona. I guess they are common in the desert.
Cross shaped cloud. Totally fascinating and beautiful!
Cross shaped cloud. Totally fascinating and beautiful!

Nature is just amazing...

I can remember in the Summer when I was a child, sitting and looking up at the sky watching the clouds, and playing games of "I Spy" with those clouds. You know, finding a cloud that actually looks like something and telling my friends to look up at it so they could see it as well.

Clouds are one of the most fascinating things in nature, in my opinion. And last week in Birmingham, Alabama, there were a lot of reports of strange looking clouds overhead! Fascinated people from all over the Birmingham area were stopping to photograph them, and even to record them on video. The clouds that people were watching that day are known as "Kelvin-Helmholtz" clouds.

These clouds look almost exactly like waves look in the ocean, only in midair. They have a swirled look to them, all swirling in a uniform way, same direction, with almost the same space between them.

By looking into this some more, I found out that Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds are formed when two layers of air are moving at different speeds, the upper layer is moving faster than the lower one. This upper layer "scoops" the top of the cloud, causing it to "curl" and makes it look like a giant wave. These clouds can be seen mostly on windy days. When the density of the air is different, it's the perfect atmosphere for these clouds to form.

I don't remember seeing these clouds before, but maybe I have and just never really LOOKED at them, you know, like the proverbial "stopping to smell the roses." I found out that these clouds are also sometimes called "Billow clouds" or "Shear Gravity Clouds." And, they are clouds that pilots like to keep a close eye on, because they can be a major cause of turbulence, due to the atmospheric instability inherent in their formation.

Two men, named Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, were best known for discovering a theory of instability that these clouds were named after. Hermann von Helmholtz found that when two fluids of different densities had a disturbance introduced to them, such as a wave, they would form this shape. The same held true for air currents of differing densities.

I know that I have seen these next clouds before, known as "Virga" clouds. The term Virga stands for "Variable Intensity Rain Gradient Aloft"... Virga is so much easier to remember! These clouds form when rain is falling from a cloud, but is evaporating before it ever hits the ground.

These are very common in hot, dry, arrid areas, like here in Las Vegas. And they are also common over the entire Southwest United States in the summer. When I first found pictures of Virga clouds, some of them remind me of angels descending upon the earth... giving me goosebumps when I first looked at them!

These clouds can be very stunning at sunset, when the sky is turning varying shades or orange, pink and gold... very pretty! Now these types of clouds can also be dangerous for aviation, sometimes causing "down bursts," or "micro-bursts." I remember my Husband mentioning these when he used to fly. It was a phenomenon that they always had to be watchful for.

One evening, we were driving towards the Red Rock Canyon National Park here near Las Vegas, and as we approached the mountains there, we saw a cloud that looked a LOT like a cross! I was kicking myself for not having my camera with me at the time, it was so pretty!

I could only describe it as one of those "Kodak moments" but I had forgotten the "Kodak!" There were shades of orange, gold, and yellow within the clouds, and a distinct "cross" shape in the middle. It looked as if a cross was descending on the tops of the mountains.

I did find a similar picture that I put here, just to be able to illustrate what we saw. Now a cloud formation like this can be called "coincidence," but I prefer to think of it as evidence of God in nature. Reminding us of the cross, and the price that was paid for our salvation... but that is just my opinion.

Regardless of anything that could have possibly caused this cloud formation, it was still very pretty, and inspiring. And you can bet that from now on, I will have a camera in the glove compartment of our car for future inspirational moments like these.




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    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR

      KathyH 

      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      So glad you like this, Movie Master! :) Thanks so much for the great vote as well! ;)

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      A fascinating hub and wonderful photos Kathy, I have never seen clouds like this before! thank you for sharing and voted up.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR

      KathyH 

      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Sharyn! So glad you like it, and thank you for your thoughtful comment! :)

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      6 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Very cool hub Kathy. I have always been intrigued by cloud formations. I learned a lot from this unique hub. Thanks,

      Sharyn

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR

      KathyH 

      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thank you Seeker7 and picklesandrufus, I really appreciate your great comments, thanks so much for reading! :)

    • picklesandrufus profile image

      picklesandrufus 

      6 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      love this Hub!! Beautiful and very informative! thanks

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      This hub was fascinating. I hadn't heard of 'Virga' or 'Kelvin-Helmholtz' clouds - these formations were not only very interesting but beautiful to look at. I agree with you that nature is so awesome!

      Wonderful hub, voted up + awesome!

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR

      KathyH 

      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks, rLcasaLme! The cross cloud really does seem to defy explanation, doesn't it? :)Glad you liked this! :) Thanks for stopping by! :)

    • rLcasaLme profile image

      rLcasaLme 

      6 years ago from Dubai, United Arab Emirates

      Nicely captured images of clouds, indeed. All of the clouds seemed really possible due to air turbulence and wind patterns, but I just couldn't figure out how that cloud could form a cross. That is just incomprehensible to me. Awesome.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR

      KathyH 

      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Hillbilly Zen! :) Sometimes I wonder if I'm totally making sense when explaining something like this, it's good to know that I am! :) And thank you for the great votes as well! :)

    • Hillbilly Zen profile image

      Hillbilly Zen 

      6 years ago from Kentucky

      What a cool Hub! Thank you so much for sharing this, Ms. Kathy, and providing such reader-friendly explanations. Voted up, useful, beautiful, awesome and interesting.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR

      KathyH 

      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Wow, that sounds like it would be a neat picture, Scribenet! So glad you like the hub, thanks for stopping by and for your very thoughtful comment! :)

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Kathy...These are spectacular. I have never seen such formations so now if I do see them, I will relax and enjoy them. I have a picture of an unusual formation...but not good enough for publishing...it was complete cloud cover, but the clouds had even indentations...so the sky looked padded. There was a hurricane way to the south and I assumed the formations had something to do with the pattern! Great Hub!

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