Lenticular clouds are lens-shaped or saucer-shaped clouds. Generally, they typically form where stable moist air flows over mountains. When this happens, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the mountain’s downwind side. Then, if the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point, moisture in the air may condense to form lenticular clouds. As a result, as the moist air moves back down into the trough of the wave, the cloud may evaporate back into vapor. So, lenticular clouds can appear and disappear relatively quickly.
Conversely, people who live in low-lying or flat terrain are unfamiliar with lenticular clouds. And, just to confound things, lenticular clouds occasionally also form in non-mountainous places as the result of shear winds created by a weather front. Therefore, people often mistake lenticular clouds for UFOs.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded 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.
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