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EarthSky // Today's Image Release Date: Dec 06, 2013

Lenticular cloud over Antarctica

Multi-layered lenticular cloud hovers near the Mount Discovery volcano in this photo taken from a NASA research flight over Antarctica.

Photo by Michael Studinger

View larger. | Photo by Michael Studinger

IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger recently returned from a short ice-surveying mission to Antarctica. He said he almost always had his digital camera ready. On November 24, 2013, he took this photograph of a multi-layered lenticular cloud hovering near Mount Discovery, a volcano about 70 kilometers (44 miles) southwest of McMurdo.

Lenticular clouds typically form when a layer of air near the surface encounters a topographic barrier, such as a mountain or volcano. The air layer gets pushed upward, and flows over the feature as a series of atmospheric gravity waves. Lenticular clouds form at the crest of the waves, where the air is coolest and water vapor is most likely to condense into cloud droplets. The bulging sea ice in the foreground is a pressure ridge, which formed when separate ice floes collided and piled up on each other.

Operation IceBridge is a multi-year mission to monitor conditions in Antarctica and the Arctic until a new ice-monitoring satellite, ICESat-2, launches in 2016. ICESat-1 was decommissioned in 2009, and IceBridge aircraft have been flying ever since.

Despite having only a week of flying time, the IceBridge team returned with scientific data and a trove of spectacular aerial photographs. See more of the aerial photos here

Photo and story via NASA Earth Observatory

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