Image: Ken Smith
Pink-tinged lenticular clouds over Mt. Rainier in Washington State
If you’re lucky, you may have already seen the stunning meteorological phenomenon we’re about to explore today. Yet, while lenticular clouds are a rare spectacle for many people, if the conditions are right, it’s not impossible to catch sight of them – and better still, to capture them on camera! Lenticular clouds are quite different from mammatus clouds, featured previously here on Environmental Graffiti, but they’re just as peculiar in shape. In fact, their appearance is so distinctive that to human eyes they are often mistaken as close encounters of the third kind – and looking at these 20 amazing images, we can see why!
Image: Barbara Snow
Southern California’s Colorado Desert: The Perfect place for a UFO sighting!
As is particularly obvious in this photograph, lenticular clouds frequently display two or even more layers, and this tendency, together with the clouds’ smooth and flat appearance, has meant they’re often likened to a stack of pancakes. You’d need a lot of syrup for this stack though…
It’s worth noting that the main scientific name for lenticular clouds is Altocumulus lenticularis, which refers to their appearance – lenticularis meaning ‘lens-shaped’. More colloquially, these clouds are called ‘lennies’. And, when a chain of lenticular clouds appears, each one mounted on the crest of the previous cloud, it creates a formation known as a ‘wave cloud’.
Image: Yaping Wu
A perfect hat for Mt. Hood in Oregon
The smooth, often disk-like shapes of lenticular clouds has also led to them being compared to flying saucers. Indeed, they’ve even been mistaken for real UFOs, or at least some kind of cloaking device for extraterrestrial spacecraft! In fact, according to this BBC article, lenticular clouds are “said to be the single biggest explanation for UFO sightings across the world.” Looking at this image, we can see why!