Mammatus clouds are pouch-like protrusions hanging from the undersides of clouds, usually thunderstorm anvil clouds but other types of clouds as well. Composed primarily of ice, these cloud pouches can extend hundreds of miles in any direction, remaining visible in your sky for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes at a time. People associate them with severe weather, and it’s true they can appear around, before or after a storm. Contrary to myth, they don’t continue extending downward to form tornados, but they are interesting in part because they’re formed by sinking air. Most clouds are formed by rising air. Mammatus clouds can appear ominous. But, in a way that’s so common in nature, their dangerous aspect goes hand in hand with a magnificent beauty.
Bottom line: A spectacular collection of photos of mammatus clouds.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.