Lenticular Clouds – Strange UFO Shaped Clouds

lenticular clouds weather strange unique
Lenticular clouds over Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia - Photographer by Michael Fung

Introduction to Lenticular clouds

Lenticular clouds are motionless clouds that appear mostly in the troposphere, typically in a vertical arrangement to the wind direction.

They are regularly similar in appearance to a lens or saucer. Nacreous clouds that develop in the lower stratosphere sometimes produce lenticular shapes.

There are three principal types of lenticular clouds: altocumulus standing lenticular (ACSL), cirrocumulus standing lenticular (CCSL) and stratocumulus standing lenticular (SCSL) differing in altitude above the Earth.

They have been implied as an explanation for some unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings because of their unique features.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

How Do Lenticular Clouds Form and What Do They Look Like?

As air moves along the surface of the Earth, obstacles are often encountered. These comprise Earth’s physical features, such as mountains or hills, and human-made structures, such as buildings and additional structures.

These interrupt the flow of air into “eddies” or turbulence areas affected by these obstructions.

When moist, stable air flows across a larger eddy, such as those produced by mountains, a set of large-scale standing waves form on the mountain’s downwind side surface. Suppose the temperature at the top of the wave drops below the local dew point.

In that case, moisture in the atmosphere may condense to produce lenticular clouds. Under specific conditions, long lines of lenticular clouds may form near every successive wave’s crest, creating a “wave cloud” arrangement.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

These wave arrangements can create large updrafts, irregularly enough for water vapour to condense and produce rain.

Lenticular clouds have been assumed to be confused for UFOs; as many of these clouds have the appearance of a “flying saucer”, with a characteristic “lens” or smooth, “saucer-like” form.

Because lenticular clouds usually do not form over low-lying or flat ground, many people may have never observed one before and don’t know that they exist.

Bright colours (called iridescence) are sometimes observed on the edge of lenticular clouds.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

Lenticular Cloud and Flight

Pilots of powered aircraft tend to evade operating near lenticular clouds because of the turbulence and descending air of the rotor created at these clouds’ trailing side. However, glider pilots actively seek them to climb in the upward moving air at the front edge.

The precise position of the rising air mass is reasonably comfortable to predict from the clouds’ orientation. “Wave lift” of this kind is usually very smooth and robust. It enables gliders to fly to great altitudes and great distances.

As of 2020, the gliding world records for both range (over 3,000 km; 1,864 mi) and official altitude (22,657 metres (74,334 ft)) were produced using such lift.

These lens-shaped orographic wave clouds appear when the air is stable, and winds blow over hills and mountains from the equivalent or similar direction at various heights within the troposphere.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

Lenticular Clouds Stats

  • Altitudes: 6,500 – 16,500 ft
  • Appearance: Curved layers, like flying saucers
  • Latin: Altocumulus lenticularis = “like a lens”
  • Precipitation: None

What are lenticular clouds?

Lenticular clouds are strange, uniquely shaped clouds that sometimes develop downwind of hills or mountains. They resemble the famous shape of flying saucers in science fiction. Real lenticular clouds are considered one of the most common reasons for UFO sightings across the globe.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

How do lenticular clouds form?

When air blows over a mountain range, in certain situations, it can set up a train of large standing waves in the air downstream, somewhat like ripples developing in a river when water flows across an obstruction.

Suppose there is enough moisture in the air. In that case, the wave’s rising motion will cause water vapour to condense, forming the unique appearance of lenticular clouds.

What weather is associated with lenticular clouds?

Lenticular clouds are a noticeable sign of mountain waves in the air. Nevertheless, these waves can be present past the clouds and may endure even when no clouds are created.

What Are Your Thoughts On This Article? – Click the green icon here:
Any thoughts on this?x

On the ground, they can result in powerful gusty winds in one area, with still air only a few hundred metres off. Pilots of powered aircraft tend to dodge flying near lenticular clouds because of the turbulence that accompanies the clouds.

On the other hand, skilled (and brave) glider pilots like them, because they can understand from the shape of the clouds anywhere, that the air will be rising.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

People also ask

What causes lenticular clouds?

These lens-shaped orographic wave clouds develop when the air is calm, and winds blow over hills and mountains of the same or similar course at different heights throughout the troposphere.

Are lenticular clouds dangerous?

Lenticular clouds mean significant instability in that layer of the atmosphere, and form in regions of mountain waves. Like sea waves, these waves of air bounding over the mountains are anything but stable. It means that it would be a turbulent ride for aircraft venturing near these clouds.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

Where are lenticular clouds most likely to form?

Lenticular clouds (Altocumulus lenticularis, which means “shaped like a lentil” in Latin) frequently develop amongst the mountainous terrain’s crests and valleys. They are connected with waves in the atmosphere that develop when moist airflow is pushed up, over and partly down a mountaintop.

How long do lenticular clouds last?

If you live near or spend much time in the mountains or ranges, you have likely observed a spectacular smooth lens-shaped cloud named a lenticular. There is no notable weather generated by a lenticular. However, their appearance often foretells snow or rain in the following 24-48 hours.

Lenticular clouds weather strange unique

Do lenticular clouds produce rain?

If the temperature at the top of one of the airwaves reaches the dew point, lenticular clouds can develop. These can produce rain, and depending on where you are, can create strong downbursts.

What are mountain clouds called?

Sometimes called “cap clouds,” lenticular clouds appear over mountain peaks when moisture begins to increase in the atmosphere’s upper levels. Lenticular clouds, or standing wave clouds, are connected with waves in the environment.

Weather Maps and Tools

Further reading

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments