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.
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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