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Lenticular Clouds: Strange UFO Shaped Clouds!

Updated on September 29, 2014
Lenticular Clouds over Cagliari
Lenticular Clouds over Cagliari | Source

Introducing nature's strangest shaped cloud, the Lenticular Cloud!

Imagine seeing this unearthly, weird cloud looming over the mountains in the twilight! Would you mistake it for an alien space ship?

Well you wouldn't be the first to mistake this strange cloud for a huge UFO coming to visit earth! Actually, it's an Altocumulus Lenticularis, commonly known as a lenticular cloud. Amazing isn't it!

Lenticular clouds are often mistaken for UFOs or alien activity! They have a smooth shape, completely unlike most clouds, and the way they just seem to hover adds to their mystery.

This page looks at how and why this magnificent cloud happens. For some of you, you may see Lenticular clouds on a regular basis but many of us may never be so lucky to see one.

France - ufo clouds
France - ufo clouds | Source

Lenticular cloud formation

There are three types of Lenticular cloud, the lowest is Stratocumulus Standing Lenticularis found at 8000 feet, the most common seen is the Altocumulus Standing Lenticularis, found between 8000 to 20,000 feet high. The highest one is the Cirrocumulus Standing Lenticularis, at over 24,000 feet and very rare because there are only a few mountains that are that high. Lenticularis is the Latin for lens, or lentil.

When strong moist air encounters a mountain, it ascends and drops the other side, then rises up again. This causes a wave wind, on the leeward side of the mountain. Wave winds are also known as lee winds or standing wave winds, it's a wind that remains in a constant position. On the crest of each wave a lenticular cloud forms due to adiabatic expansion cooling, which is where the air pressure is cooled below the dew point. Lenticular clouds are normally at right angles to the wind direction.

See the diagram below, which illustrates how lee waves occur.

How lee waves occur

Wave lift
Wave lift | Source

Lenticular cloud features

The appearance of lenticular clouds are smooth, giving the UFO flying saucer shape, or layered, uncannily like a stack of pancakes! An amazing feature of this cloud is that it appears to be completely stationary - often staying in the same place for many hours and sometimes days. This is due to the wave winds holding it in place.

Popular nicknames for these clouds are:

  • Lennies
  • UFO Clouds
  • Flying Saucer Clouds
  • Clouds of heaven
  • Angelship clouds
  • Wave clouds

Lenticular clouds over Sierra Nevada
Lenticular clouds over Sierra Nevada | Source

A Lenticular cloud in the Bible?

.....and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.

Exodus 24:16 (New International Version)

Imperial Clouds
Imperial Clouds | Source

Is it safe to fly through Lenticular clouds?

The appearance of lenticular clouds means that there are strong winds, a wave wind has a strong vertical and downward movement - meaning turbulence. The mountain wave wind can occur for over 100 miles past the mountain range, and can exist up into the troposphere and down into the lower stratosphere. So, airplane pilots will avoid flying near lenticular clouds as it can mean extreme turbulence as the atmospheric conditions are so dramatic. Injury to airplane crew and passengers is very likely to happen.

However, glider pilots love to fly through standing lenticular clouds and mountain wave winds! The strong lift of this wind was first discovered by a glider pilot, Wolf Hirth in 1933. Gliding in a wave wind causes the aircraft to soar dramatically, and glider pilots often need to use pressure suits and have oxygen masks to help them breathe.

UFO sightings and Lenticular clouds

Just a cloud? Or are UFOs paying us a visit?

People often mistake altocumulus lenticularis clouds for UFOs or flying saucers, and who can blame them - they do look very other worldly! When the sun sets these clouds can look like something from a Salvador Dali painting.

Some people also believe that aliens hide in lenticular clouds, but why would they choose something so obvious? The psychologist Carl Jung believed that people see flying saucers just as people from ancient civilizations "saw" their gods in the sky. In this modern age, instead of Zeus or Odin, we see spaceships

A mountain often photographed with lenticularis clouds is Mount Shasta in California, which is 14,179 feet high. See the photo above, with the beautiful lenticular cloud and the sandhill cranes as a wonderful example. Mount Shasta often has spectacular weather and clouds due to orographic lifting - when there is mountain in the way, wind is force upwards and if there is enough moisture in the air, amazing clouds form. Take a look at this webpage, Mount Shasta which gives a clear meteorological explanation as to why lenticular clouds are seen so often over this volcano.

Mount Shasta - Are there aliens up there?


The myth of Mount Shasta....

There is a myth that there is a secret kingdom inside Mount Shasta, inhabited by a mysterious hidden community called Lemurians. The Lemurians are advanced human beings with many supernatural powers and use spacecraft to travel out of the mountain. Some say that the lenticular clouds are actually their spaceships descending onto the mountain....

Visit The Lemurian Connection website that explains in depth the strange goings on at Mount Shasta, including the coming and going of spaceship activity!

UFO or cloud....can you tell them apart?


Your Opinion about UFO clouds - please take part in my lenticular cloud poll below!

Are Lenticular clouds UFOs in disguise?

See results
A Lenticular in Ojai, California
A Lenticular in Ojai, California | Source

SPOTTED! A stunning Lenticular cloud!

If you have Lenticular cloud photos you would like posted here, let me know!

These beautiful and unusual cloud photos were taken by Zoe Murdock in Ojai, California. Zoe is a writer, who has very kindly let me use her photos. Check out her author facebook page here.


Watch Lenticular clouds forming - a time lapse video

Have you seen a Lenticular cloud? If you have great photos of Lenticular clouds and you would like to see them featured on this page, let me know!

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    • profile image

      Ross Buonaguidi 3 years ago

      I took a picture of a lenticular cloud that REALLY looks like it's covering up a UFO, but I live in the flat lands of Illinois just outside of Chicago. There's not a mountain or even a hill for 100 miles in any direction. It was near sundown and I was facing the east when I took my picture and out of the bottom of the cloud is a radiant orange and red light coming from the cloud.....can you explain that to me? I have the picture, just not really sure how to post it on here.

    • Jim Houston profile image

      Jim Houston 3 years ago from Wilmer, Alabama

      Outstanding lens. I have only seen one lenticular in my lifetime and it was truly amazing. You have some beautiful photos posted. There have been some speculations is some news stories about ufo's using a similar cloud formation as a shield. I don't think there is any doubt at this stage of the game as to whether they exist and it is just a matter of time before disclosure takes place. JimHouston33

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 4 years ago from State of Confussion

      Yes I watch clouds. Its hard at work when I don't have a window seat. Even harder is when driving and seeing how the clouds. And I wonder if all these other drivers are looking up or just forward until they get to where they are going?

    • greentiger11 profile image

      greentiger11 4 years ago

      I love clouds. Man I could sit back with a corona and stare at them all day long! hahaha. If you believe in the possibility of ufos, you should really check out the documentary that will be airing tonight. Here is the link:

    • empathzone profile image

      empathzone 4 years ago

      I had never paid attention to these clouds, they are beautiful! Great lens, thanks for sharing! :)

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 5 years ago

      I see small lenticular clouds, usually among other clouds, a few times a year. This is a wonderful lens. Thanks again for sharing all this great information!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      The pictures are spectacular, well presented lens, about UFO of not, I will say NO, but I can be wrong... who really knows!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      Excellent lens!

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 5 years ago

      I was lying on my back on the boat yesterday, and thought I saw a few lenticular clouds appear. I was wrong-- they ended up just being UFO's. What a disappointment! Great lens- really enjoyed the video! Thanks.

    • profile image

      AngelDeanSquidoo 5 years ago

      Awesome lens.

    • LilibeanNP profile image

      LilibeanNP 5 years ago

      I LOVE this lens! These clouds ARE amazing. I haven't ever seen one in real life but I certainly hope to some day. I especially love the lore you included about the UFOs and the Lemurians. That stuff fascinates me. =) Great read!!

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      I believe I've seen close to it, though not quite as flat as these ~ Beautiful clouds! Happy UFO day! B : )

    • williemack58 profile image

      williemack58 5 years ago

      I never heard that on occasions Lenticular clouds are mistaken for flying saucers, interesting information.

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      I love this lens! I chose it for my UFO Day Quest. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the photos! Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Here is a very unusual lenticular cloud that appeared over Santa Barbara, CA yesterday:

    • neuromancer lm profile image

      neuromancer lm 5 years ago

      Awesome picture, I'm sure some of the UFO sighitings are in fact these clouds.

    • FantasticVoyages profile image

      Fantastic Voyages 5 years ago from Texas

      Wow! These are really neat! I've never heard of, nor seen, such a cloud!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Fabulous photos! I can certainly see how a lenticular cloud could be mistaken for something other-worldly.

    • profile image

      mjohansson 5 years ago

      These clouds are really cool! Have seen several of them in the wake of Mt. Etna on Sicily, they are really amazing!

    • Dmarieinspires profile image

      Dana Marie 5 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      Very cool!!!! Never saw a cloud like that here in the midwest :( Thanks for sharing

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      I saw lots of lenticular clouds when I worked at Mt. Rainier National Park. They rock.

    • David Dove profile image

      David Dove 6 years ago

      utterly beautiful, thank you

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Excellent images. I have seen other excellent ones on Plymouth State University's site.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      Spectacular! I love clouds and often find myself just mesmerized by their exquisite beauty. I've been seeing some clouds that look like these lately. Because I have four high mountains in my backyard I get really interesting clouds, wind, and weather patterns. The clouds are the best part of it. Thanks for a beautiful lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How interesting, fascinating and beautiful ~ the sky show is amazing.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      I've never seen a lenticular cloud, and I watch the skies pretty often. It must be the area that I live.

    • BrickHouseFabrics profile image

      BrickHouseFabrics 6 years ago

      I used to see them over the mountains of the west.

    • profile image

      jimmyLane 6 years ago

      Marvellous photos and very informative

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Oh Oh ... LCA ... Lenticular Cloud Alert ... Brooksville, Florida ... December 8, 2010, 1:44pm EST.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 7 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      What great pictures! I enjoyed this lens a lot.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Never, but I've driven by Mt. Shasta many times. Next time I'll be on the lookout for them.

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 7 years ago

      These clouds are amazingly marvelous! You're a talented cloud amateur, Lucy! Congrats on this exquisite page! I enjoyed the visit and hope that you won't stop building those fantabulous cloud lenses.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I have never SEEN or even HEARD of a lenticular cloud! Guess because I've never been around a really high mountain range. Absolutely fascinating and the pictures are gorgeous!

    • callinsky lm profile image

      callinsky lm 7 years ago

      Very neat. Very informational. Gorgeous photos. Very well done lens.

    • davemin profile image

      davemin 7 years ago

      have never seen clouds like these before and found this information really interesting, great photos of lenticular clouds

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      Fantastic! Great photos, videos and writing. These clouds are fascinating and you've presented them in an entertaining and educational way.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      Driving down from Lake Tahoe one day we saw a whole "fleet" of lenticular clouds. It was an amazing sight. It was not unusual to see them there from time to time. Enjoyed reading about lenticular clouds!

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 7 years ago

      Very cool and interesting, I enjoyed my visit.

      Great job,


    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Now those are really cool clouds! They do indeed look like UFOs - amazing.

    • Glorymiller profile image

      Glory Miller 7 years ago from USA

      Great lens, thumbs up for sure.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Wow I never seen this clouds before. But I saw a picture that shows like a pair of eye after earthquake in idonesia, it was like so real! Your lens picture is nice too, especially 1st one!

    • profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Fantastic! Your cloud lenses are terrific. These are amazing! Blessed by a cloud-surfing Squid angel :-)

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      None in Australia :-( They look spectacular in the photos!

    • profile image

      aishu19 7 years ago

      Wow!! Never knew clouds could look like UFOs...I do hope I get to see one someday...Nice descriptions and a great cloudy lens....