Lenticular Clouds: Strange UFO Shaped Clouds!
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.
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
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:
- UFO Clouds
- Flying Saucer Clouds
- Clouds of heaven
- Angelship clouds
- Wave clouds
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)
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 below, with the beautiful lenticular cloud 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 about 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?
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
© 2010 LadyFlashman