Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lenticular Clouds: Mt. Rainier's extra-terrestrial weather forecaster

Ever seen a UFO hovering over the mountain tops? I mean, ever seen lenticular clouds floating over the mountain tops? Not to diss those who believe we have been visited by extra-terrestrial travelers, but these unique cloud formations (sometimes mistaken for UFOs) are worthy of note as one of nature's phenomenons and often an indicator of a change in the weather.

Lenticular clouds are formed when stable moist air moves over mountains forming what is called a standing or "lee" wave. If the top of the wave gets below the dew point, then the moisture can form into these unusual cloud formations.

In Washington, the locals at Mt. Rainier look to these cloud formations as an indicator of coming rain, as the moisture and wind patterns required to produce lenticular clouds over Mt. Rainier often precede a storm by 24-hours. The clouds pictured above occurred last Friday, but the weekend turned out to be sunny at the mountain.

Well, looks like the folklore weather forecasting is about as reliable as the UFO reports. But the clouds look great, anyway.

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