Lenticular clouds look like UFOs

Snowy and mountainous landscape with white saucer-shaped lenticular clouds above.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Sheryl R. Garrison in Southern Alberta, Canada, took this image of lenticular clouds on November 12, 2022. Sheryl wrote: “It looked like a space invasion as we headed toward the mountains on the weekend. I couldn’t help but think of the headline … Breaking News: Rocky Mountains Invaded by Lenticular Clouds.” Thank you, Sheryl!

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.

Here’s a video from The Weather Channel to help you understand how lenticular clouds form.

Enjoy these photos of beautiful lenticular clouds from EarthSky community members around the world. And, you can share your own lenticular cloud photos with us at EarthSky Community Photos.

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Photos of lenticular clouds in 2022

California town with saucer-shaped lenticular clouds above.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Tirza Grant took this image of lenticular clouds on December 27, 2022, from Rancho Mirage, California. Thank you, Tirza!
White stacked oval clouds over mountains.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Meiying Lee shared this photo from Syue Mountain, Taichung, Taiwan. Meiying wrote: “At 7:42 in the morning of August 23, 2022, after climbing in the dark for nearly 4 hours, I finally reached the main peak of Syue Mountain. It is the 2nd highest mountain in Taiwan with an altitude of 3,886 meters. The weather was clear and I was very lucky to meet a beautiful, clean lenticular cloud in the blue sky and mountains. It looked like a hat, and very much like a UFO.” Thank you, Meiying!

Photos of lenticular clouds in 2021

White cloud cap over Mount Rainier from above.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Terri Jonas in a plane over Mount Rainier captured this photo of lenticular clouds on September 14, 2021. Terri wrote: “I go between Sacramento and Seattle a couple times a week by airline and always look out to see the Cascade volcanoes along the way. I loved seeing the lenticular clouds on this day. It looked super interesting to me! I love clouds as much as volcanoes and mountains!” We do, too! Thank you, Terri!
Many plate-shaped clouds floating in a blue sky over mountains.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Jill Phipps in Tucson, Arizona, captured this image on January 18, 2021. She said: “These clouds caught my eye as I was driving home last night. I had never seen anything like them. To me they looked like flying saucers, or stacks of pancakes.” Thanks for sharing your image with us, Jill!

Photos from before 2021

Saucer-shaped pink cloud, over a snow-covered, craggy mountain.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Doug Blaney of Weed, California, captured this image on February 12, 2020. It’s one of many lenticular clouds seen in this area. Weed is about 10 miles (16 km) west-northwest of Mount Shasta, which is one of California’s most famous landmarks. Read about the lenticular clouds near Weed, California, in the Washington Post. Thanks, Doug!
Several lenticular clouds above and beside snow-capped peak.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Roberts caught this photo of lenticular clouds over Mt. Rainier, Washington, on June 6, 2017. Thank you, David!
Lenticular cloud with fuzzy cloud above it, trees on horizon.
View larger at EarthSky Community Photos. | Richard Doyle captured this lenticular cloud at Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, Canada, on April 11, 2014. Thank you, Richard!
Wide multiple-layer lenticular cloud over mountains.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Richard Hasbrouck caught this photo in Truchas, New Mexico, on January 11, 2014. Thanks, Richard!
4 orange lenticular clouds in sunset light over distant mountains.
View larger. | Lenticular clouds over Sangre de Cristo mountains, New Mexico, by EarthSky Facebook friend Geraint Smith. See another photo of lenticular clouds by Geraint Smith in EarthSky Community Photos.

Bottom line: Lenticular clouds look like UFOs. See photos of lenticular clouds in various parts of the world, from the EarthSky community.

January 1, 2024

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