Lenticular clouds look like UFOs

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!

Enjoy these photos of beautiful lenticular clouds taken in places around the world, and shared with us by our community at EarthSky Facebook and EarthSky Community Photos.

These lens-shaped clouds typically form where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains. When this happens, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the mountain’s downwind side. 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 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. Plus they’re not familiar to people who live in low-lying or flat terrain. And, just to confound things, lenticular clouds have also been known to form in non-mountainous places, as the result of shear winds created by a front. For all of these reasons, lenticular clouds are often mistaken for UFOs (or “visual cover” for UFOs). Enjoy the photos! Thank you to all who posted.

Enjoying EarthSky? Sign up for our free daily newsletter today!

The 2021 lunar calendars are here! Order yours before they’re gone.

Photos of lenticular clouds

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!
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. The lenticular clouds near Weed, California, got some press coverage recently. Read about them in the Washington Post. Thanks, Doug!
Pink and blue clouds above a field of yellow-green grass with fence posts.
Wendy Jeffries captured lenticular clouds over a field in Clifden, Connemara, Ireland, on June 3, 2019.
Large, slightly slanted, round flat cloud under undulating, orange cloud layer.
Beautiful shot of lenticular cloud at sunset by Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada.
Wide multiple-layer lenticular cloud over mountains.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Richard Hasbrouck caught this photo in Truchas, New Mexico.
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.
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.
Two-layer lenticular cloud hovering over stand of trees with grassy field in foreground.
Alba Evangelista Ramos, a Brazilian biologist, captured these rare images of a lenticular cloud from a moving vehicle, near the Haute-Provence Observatory, situated in southeastern France. In this particular case, the “UFO cloud” seems to have been produced by the cold mistral wind that strongly blows over southern France, as it was pushed up the 2,132-foot-high (650-meter-high) plateau of the observatory.
Thick lenticular cloud like a cap on a steep island mountain, sea in foreground.
Jan Whiteman captured this photo at Lord Howe Island, a volcanic remnant in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.
Double lenticular cloud connected by a thick round stalk in orange sunset light.
Shared with EarthSky by Jay Lundstrom, who caught this lenticular cloud near Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine.
Lenticular cloud against stormy gray sky.
Sarah Fischer wrote, “I came out of my apartment building, and these were right above my head.”
Thick, double lenticular cloud over silhouette of pointy hill or mountain.
Lenticular cloud over Roque del Conde, on the island of Tenerife, via Roberto Porto.
Lenticular cloud with unusual wavelike top edge against blue sky, roofs in foreground.
“Lenticular cloud outside my window in Dublin, Ireland, this morning. I was surprised to see this as we don’t get them too often here,” said Anthony Lynch Photography.
Mushroom shaped lenticular cloud over icy and rocky landscape.
View larger. | Lenticular cloud over Iceland by Anne Greschuk.
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.
Lenticular cloud evaporating, streaming left to right.
Angela Mosley caught this lenticular cloud from Denver, Colorado.
Grayscale multiple lenticular clouds over 2 ice-capped mountains.
Lenticular clouds by Richard T. Hasbrouck in Truchas, New Mexico.
Thin lenticular cloud over icy mountains.
David Marshall captured this lenticular cloud above the Alps in northern Italy.
Lenticular cloud with bumpy edges against blue sky.
John Lloyd Griffith in north Wales captured this lenticular cloud.
Immense mushroom-shaped lenticular cloud over large ice formations.
This photo comes from Michel Studinger of Operation IceBridge. It’s a lenticular cloud over Antarctica.
Multi-layer lenticular clouds with right edge streaming away.
Radek Zek Photography caught this lenticular cloud.
Lumpy-looking lenticular cloud in orange sunset light.
Emilio Lepeley captured this lenticular cloud over Vicuña, Chile.
Splendid big tall lenticular cloud over storm clouds against blue sky.
Jackie Phillips caught this lenticular cloud over Virginia.

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

January 19, 2021

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Deborah Byrd

View All