Spaceship Lenticular Cloud – Maybe the Coolest Cloud Picture Evah!

Unique Sierra Wave cloud sighted over Reno, NV

From my friend Mike Alger at KTVN-TV Reno, who writes:

I’ve been on the air doing weather for KTVN-TV for over a quarter of a century, as you might expect (and to channel Anthony), people send me things. Especially pictures of the clouds. And some of them are quite good. But the one Jeff Houk sent me Sunday morning might be the coolest ever. I’ve seen some very nice Standing Lenticular clouds (we call them Sierra Wave clouds locally) before, and the colors make this one pretty spectacular in its own right. But that perfectly carved out hole in its middle was something that I’ve never seen before.

spaceship-lenticular-cloud

Full sized: https://wxmanreno.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/spaceship-lenticular.jpg

I thought it might be fun for WUWT readers to give their own theories on what is causing it. I have a pretty good idea, and so as to not give it away, after you post you theory below, you can link to my explanation found on my weather blog at mikealger.net. Here’s a direct link to the relevant posting: (http://mikealger.net/2015/03/18/explaining-the-hole-in-the-cloud/)

Enjoy!

Mike Alger

Chief Meteorologist

KTVN-TV

Reno, NV

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172 thoughts on “Spaceship Lenticular Cloud – Maybe the Coolest Cloud Picture Evah!

  1. It’s the cloaking device of the Federation Starship Enterprise. The best they can do is to make the ship look like a cloud. Not so effective in space …

    • Well there is the well documented hole punch cloud at O’hare on Nov. 6. 2006. Of course the normal response is to just dismiss all of the witness evidence and assume it was some kind of unexplained phenomenon unknown at present (gee I sure wouldn’t want want any of those highly experiences pilots or ground personnel on a jury of mine/sarc).
      An object had hovered over the O’Hare airport concourse at United Airlines gate C17. It could not be identified by witnesses as any known craft. One United Airlines officer who observed it from almost directly below for approximately five minutes described it as “a dirty-aluminum color, very stable, and without any optical distortions near it” . . . it was “perfectly round and silent.” The object, what ever it was, appeared to have punched a “sharp-edged hole” through cloud cover when it left. There was an almost perfect cut-out (of clear air) in the cloud layer where the craft had been. It is estimated the hole remained visible for approximately five to ten minutes.
      http://www.cohenufo.org/ohare2006.htm
      http://www.narcap.org/reports/TR10_Case_18a.pdf

      • You do realize how cranky TSA types can get when they catch folks taking unauthorized photos at an airport don’t you? Then again, even if someone did get a snap with their phone, the lenses in a phone are – ah – we’ll just say pushed to the limit of their quality. The images are stored as jpegs, so there is some data loss as the image is stored, and no RAW file is generated. Since the incident at O’Hare was in 2006, you can step back the image quality of phone images too “even worse.” So, the eyewitness descriptions are probably as good as anything you get from a phone camera and probably more detailed. And, because TSA is TSA, cameras are not well regarded in the secure areas and flight lines at major hubs.

  2. Obviously, Co2 is causing some kind of warming and this time it makes a circle. Logically and not sarcastically.

    • Because of changes to the climate, caused in large part by human activity, cloud formations like this could become more common in the future. /futurecommentbytheipcc

    • I say this because there are twin oval clouds with holes in them, joined by a narrow band, in the right foreground. In the rear left there is another pair of lenticular wave clouds. Looks like air is flowing toward the camera from left rear, having flowed past a peak out of view to the far left.
      SR

      • Stevan… The peaks probably contributed to the formation of the wave clouds (lenticulars), but I’m pretty sure they aren’t the cause of the hole in the center. Check my solution at mikealger.net.

  3. That’s not a cloud, you fools, it’s a Vogon constructor ship. Looks like they’re about the start work on that inter-galactic expressway finally.
    I’m going to grab my towel and get out if here.

  4. This ‘never been seen before’ hole in the cloud was caused by a massive radiative imbalance. This can only be due to the anthro, anthtopo, aanthropomorf, man-made emissions of carbon dioxide. It had, of course, been predicted by multi-ensemble, quantum adjusted, globally sensitive, organic, free-range, gluten free computer models, powered by the finest grants available. If more money can be provided for further research we might even be right.

  5. Antony,
    That cloud doesn’t look like the Sierra Wave lenticular clouds that I’ve seen over the Carson Valley. The patchy tendrils above (brightest yellow cloud bits in the photo), don’t look like they can exist in the smooth transverse winds of a wave lenticular cloud.
    The photo looks like some convective cloud in an unusual thermocline.
    “That’s not a standing lenticular. This is a standing lenticular Sierra Wave cloud”
    http://www.pbase.com/jadazu/image/89158962/original

    • Just a hint…it is definitely lenticular, and not convective. Strong prefrontal winds perpendicular to the Sierra were already blowing at this time. It was not a convective environment.

    • I saw a very similar cloud over the eastern side of the Southern Coast Range in the San Joaquin Valley several years ago. I was on I-5 can could not pull over for a photo. The one I saw was not as clean cut as this one and it had small dependent vortices around the outer edge that look rather like tentacles. I thought at the time what a great H P Lovecraft reference it would have made.

  6. That is a crop circle done by an elevation-challanged alien from Nirubi…. geez, do I have to explain everything around here!

  7. Obviously it’s Kevin’s missing heat, silly.
    Missing in Nevada…who’da thunk?
    Pretty smart though.
    Who would look for extra heat in Nevada?
    Makes it easier to blend in with the other heat, I guess.

  8. Sadly the image has been cropped so you can’t see the spindle formation out the side of the frame. This was pre-production set up for Interstellar Mythbusters to test the old proverb that it’s “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle”.
    The eye isn’t fully formed yet, the proverb’s creators didn’t specify the material the needle should be made from and the camel launchers are also out of shot. Al Gore declined to participate in the other part of the proverb, so the myth is a hit.

    • It sounds as though it was pretty difficult for these camels to go throught he needle’s eye.
      The proverb didn’t say it was impossible, just difficult.

  9. A microscopic black hole entered the atmosphere and pierced this cloud. It has since migrated to the center of the earth, where it is proceeding to consume the earth ‘inside out’.
    It is worse than we thought……

    • The above was a premise for a story by Greg Bear. The title escapes my memory right now.

      • I did a search on Amazon and the novel is “The “Forge of God”. It was first published about 1989 or so. I read the original book in the early 90’s and thoroughly enjoyed it. Well worth reading again.

    • greymouser,
      You win the ‘kewpie doll’ !
      The Forge Of God was an excellent sci-fi tale!
      Mac

  10. It looks like the red spot on Jupiter. Seriously, I guess it was caused by winds being separated by a mt peak and one stream of wind going faster than the other causing a spiral wind pattern.

  11. This is a cumulus lenticularis gone into the castellanus stage because of local latent heat causing extra lift to the above air. There is a hidden convection cell located above the centre of that cloud, and it roofs in the tropopause some kilometers above the centre of the cloud. The downdraughts cause the bulb below the cloud, which is probably a giant mammus-feature. Because the air below the cloud es dry, any precipitation from it either evaporates or is blown to somewhere else. The small, fluffy clouds surrounding the lenticularis are probably caused by the cool downdraugt of the convective cell.

  12. How interesting. I actually see two “perfectly carved holes” as you call them. Any constructs like that on our globe are probably due to the Coriolis effect, somehow. Let os speculate on how such two “holes” can come about in clouds. It must have been in very calm conditions.

  13. Does Mr. Houk offer any information about how this cloud developed over time? Maybe a series of pictures? It would be interesting to see what motion might be indicated within the cloud.
    I once saw a toroidal cloud in front of the San Gabriel mountains, apparently over Azusa. It looked like a giant inner tube lying flat, and it was so compact that I thought at first it was a balloon. However closer observation revealed that it was spinning; imagine a long skinny tornado that somehow looped back on itself. I was riding a bike on top of Santa Fe dam at the time and I watched it for maybe 5 or 10 minutes, called it to the attention of a couple of passing hikers. Eventually my ‘inner tube’ had a blowout, with a big puff of cloud emerging from the west side, and the tube shrivelling to nothing all the way around, but maintaining its overall diameter. Been wondering ever since how it got started, whether something like that could start in more settled weather, well above the dew point so it would be invisible, but might cause Clear Air Turbulence.

    • Juan…I asked him if he saw it before he took the picture (I was interested if there was some virga below the hole before the picture was snapped.) He said he went outside, saw it and snapped three pictures, probably over the course of 15 minutes. They all looked the same with some slight variances in color. Here’s how they looked in order of appearance.
      https://wxmanreno.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/spaceship-lenticular-2.jpg
      https://wxmanreno.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/spaceship-lenticular-1.jpg
      https://wxmanreno.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/spaceship-lenticular.jpg

      • We get those downwind of Mt Rainier – you can watch them form and dissipate for hours while driving toward Seattle from Eastern Washington. I’ve always presumed them to be standing lenticulars embedded in a layer of stratus. The stacks in the background are more common. As a pilot I’ve been taught to avoid them but as a student of nature I’m always looking for them.

    • And Juan… That horizontal toroidal cloud you described was probably what we call a rotor cloud. Usually they are seen over the Owens Valley, and yes, you really don’t want to fly into them.

    • Generally those fairly rare, short lived, torodial spinning clouds are created by the fast rotating horizontal and usually very rough turbulent rotor systems found under most mountain lee wave systems.
      The extraordinary mountain lee wave systems found east of the Andes over western Argentina don’t seem to have rotor systems laying under them or reasons still unknown.
      The very high altitude “Perlan” pressurised glider project, it is hoped in 2016 if conditions are suitable will attempt to reach 90,000 feet altitude using height gained in the amazing Andes mountain’s lee wave systems to gain entry to the wave systems that extend up into the fast moving stratospheric Antarctic Polar Vortex winds over Patagonia in the far south of South America.
      If they succeed it will be the highest sustained level flight, higher even that the SR 71’s record for level sustained flight of around 87,000 feet.
      It seems that a good percentage of the world’s research meteorologists are also watching this project with great interest as it will be rare and unique platform to analyse the conditions at these altitudes.
      The “Perlan” project glider will possibly be on display at Oshkosh later this year.
      Flights by gliders approaching and in at least a couple of instances exceeding 3000 kms distance have been done over the last few years in the Andes wave systems . These flights are generally carried out at 30,000 to 40,000 feet altitude with straight line speeds exceeding 300 KPH ground speed and can last for some 10 hours or more.
      Mountain Wave Project; http://www.mountain-wave-project.com/index-1.html
      The Perlan Project; http://www.perlanproject.org/
      And for numerous spectacular cloud formations
      The Cloud Appreciation Society ; http://cloudappreciationsociety.org/

      • As for that apparent “hole” in the center of that rough looking lenticular.
        My guess would be the overall wave is being triggered off a relatively low range by mild wind conditions at low level.
        However there may be, even appears to be in the last photo just above, a higher narrow peak in that range of hills that is projecting into a much faster moving,higher in altitude wind flow and this is creating a very narrow intense fast moving lee wave off that sharp peak that is driving that apparent hole into the main lenticular.
        Not at all unusual, in fact the norm to find surges and narrow regions of temporarily much faster lift ie; fast ing air in lee waves of say 400 feet per minute up through to a 1000 FPM up when flying gliders in those waves and thats in our very mild mountain wave conditions here in Australia let alone in the much more powerful Sierra wave and the Andes mountains wave systems.

  14. “I thought it might be fun for WUWT readers to give their own theories on what is causing it.”
    Easy. Like everything else CO2 caused it.

  15. Sooooooo….How do we get the same lenticular clouds in Edmonton,Alberta, 400 hundred miles east of the Rocky’s on flat land, at 3100 feet MSL? Just asking.

    • Satellite pics quite often show regular mountain lee wave systems extending a thousand or so kilometres down wind from their triggering mountain range when upper air winds and lapse rates and stability bands are set up just right for such systems

    • If the conditions are right, you can get a series of standing waves several hundred miles downwind of a major mountain range. We see it in Nevada all the time downwind of the Sierra. Glider pilots will often jump from wave peak to wave peak in an effort to set point-to-point distance records. A good friend of mine, Gordon Boettger, has piloted a glider from Western Nevada into Wyoming a couple of times.

  16. well that i turbulence, a stream of air have produced the two eddies, possibly an airplane have passed or topography of the ground lowered pressure and produce a narrow high speed wind.
    I hope this was vague enough.

  17. 97% of Climate scientists think it is the plughole used to hide the missing heat. Bought and paid for by the Koch family and operated by deniers. They also think the oceans will boil

  18. Lenticular clouds are formed when an air mass flows over mountains. When the air rises, it cools adiabatically. When a parcel of air cools below its dew point, water condenses and a cloud forms. After the air passes over the mountain and starts to drop again, the reverse happens: the air warms and the cloud fades. The air flow is laminar, so layers of air do not mix as this happens. When a layer of moist air overlies a layer of dryer air, the dry air will not form a part of the cloud. Several layers of alternating moister and dryer air leads to the ‘stack of plates’ appearance seen in the smaller lenticular clouds in the distance.
    If the dryer air breaches the bottom of the cloud (which is set by the humidity of the moister air layer), it will leave a ‘dent’. Similar dents are visible in the two smaller adjoining clouds.

    • That’s pretty much what I thought. Although I would have added that the drier air below may have passed over something hot (an asphalted car park, for instance) to stimulate the rise.
      Or maybe it’s the other way round. Perfectly normal lenticular cloud which as been punctured by a meteorite. 🙂

  19. @LewSkannen
    …“I thought it might be fun for WUWT readers to give their own theories on what is causing it.”
    Easy. Like everything else CO2 caused it….

    Wrong Answer! You fail the Climate Science challenge!
    The correct answer is:
    ” This appears to be a totally new and unforeseen ‘climate weirding’ phenomenon – distinctly separate from the CO2 issue, and thus requiring a completely new set of researchers. It could cause the extinction of life on Earth as we know it within 10 years. We must immediately set up an Inter Governmental Panel on Funny Cloud Shapes, funded by the UN, along similar lines to the IPCC (but with a larger budget) and a remit to study funny cloud shapes for at least 30 years…”

  20. A climbing jet went through the center. Shock wave passed outward with nearly circular pattern on underside. The middle was disrupted, and left just under dew point. A bit like this?

  21. Mike Alger…
    Vortex shedding around a mountain?, ie Von Karman vortex street, on a massive scale?

    • Here is an example of Von Karman Vortex Street as seen by a satellite over the Island of Madeira.

    • Here is an example of Von Karman Vortex Street as seen by a satellite over the Island of Madeira.

      • That’s an intriguing idea, but I’m pretty sure it is not a Von Karman Vortex. For one, the lenticular and the “hole” was stationary in the sky. A Von Karman would continue to move downstream. Especially since the wind was blowing ~100 mph at the clouds altitude.
        Here’s a series of three pictures… each taken a few minutes apart.
        https://wxmanreno.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/spaceship-lenticular-1.jpg
        https://wxmanreno.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/spaceship-lenticular-2.jpg
        https://wxmanreno.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/spaceship-lenticular.jpg
        As you notice, there is no movement of the lenticular or the hole.

      • If you look carefuly at the leading fluffy cloud, the whole mass is rotating very slowly to the right, anti-clockwise.

      • Hey Mike, I see your point. So that provokes the obvious question: Did the hole, which shows a small amount of rotation, appear in the cloud or did the holed or rotating cloud move in? I know that this may be unknown to you. The vortex shedding concept demands a counter flow or an obstruction somewhere.

      • Paul… I’m, not convinced there was any rotation of the hole…It looks pretty static to me. The best explanation is a meso-high formed under descending air thanks to precipitation occurring at the apex of the lenticular. It’s easy to think that the hole is caused by dry air being pulled upwards into the cloud, but I think it is just the opposite. I think it is air moving downward from the top of the cloud, creating a “warm spot” in the middle, and raising the saturation elevation a couple of hundred feet there. To me, it’s the only explanation that makes any sense given the conditions present.

  22. Atmospheric vortex draining CO2 to space and resulting in a pause for the global temperature.

  23. I am sure it is a spaceship getting ready to “beam up” something just out of the picture – the photographer, perhaps? You can tell that is the open hatch in the bottom of the ship where the target will be drawn, and just beyond, in the picture, you can clearly see the hatch door. Must be Martian in origin, judging by the color.

  24. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – a movie from the 80’s I believe with Richard Dryfus – that is what it reminds me of.

  25. Anthony — I think I see a hole in the next cloud down and to the right of the first one. A series of clouds with holes. I have no idea what causes such, other than the subject of my series on Chaos….a turbulence attractor of some kind to the local system … that why the second (not quite so circular) caught my eye. —

  26. Nice shot! Thinking that the teardrop shaped depression around the periphery of the hole plus the shredded fragments above it are the give away. There must be a lot of horizontal rotation in the wave that is acting somewhat like a rotating thermal (“dust-devil”) creating a “bulge” of slightly warmer air pushing up into the base. Notice how the teardrop depression looks almost like the feeder bands of a strong low – a tropical depression or hurricane. My guess is there was a lot of CCW rotation mixed with the classic vertical wave action. It also looks like the effect was duplicated in the following cloud behind and to the right in this shot. Think of the miles long, fast rotating horizontal vortex you’ll occasionally see at the leading edge of a frontal passage with a strong vertical sinusoidal mountain wave overlaid. Except the horizontal rotation in this case had to be from the geometry of the ridge producing the wave. Nice!
    From an old pilot adage I first heard in the 1960’s, “If we could see the air we fly through — we wouldn’t.”

    • From an old pilot adage I first heard in the 1960’s, “If we could see the air we fly through — we wouldn’t.”
      Bill, come to Los Angeles. We like to see what we’re breathing.

  27. The smaller lenticular cloud in the photo also has a “hole”. My guess for what it’s worth, is similar to others’ in that the high wind speeds and the deflection at the top of the wave is causing some compression in the flow in the air flow at slightly lower levels. The slightly increased pressure also has a slightly increased temperature: just enough to see a slight rise in the elevation of the dewpoint, which becomes apparent by the dimple in the base of the cloud.

  28. Everyone is struggling to explain the cloud with a hole in it. Sadly you are on a hiding to nothing, as you are NOT looking at a cloud with a hole in it – what you are actually seeing is a hole surrounded by cloud. Now that is a totally different kettle of fish, and far easier to explain – so much so that I will not patronise you by giving out the answers.

  29. The wind is compressed as it moves up the side of the mountains. It is accelerated, and produces vortices, similar to wind tip vorticies on aircraft. When it reaches the peak of the mountain, if it is shaped through a avalanche, channel area, those vortices are projected upward, into the base of the forming lenticular cloud.

    • Or it is where Iron Man, flew through the cloud.
      Or it is the formation of the Eye of Sauron.
      Or the cloud passed over Sacramento, and the black hole sucked out 10% of the cloud.

  30. If its over a golf course, it’d be Barack responding to the news that Bibi remains firmly in control of Israel’s future…

  31. it is the left side of the Earth’s cloud bikini top. 🙂 no really it is… 🙂
    Cheers!
    Joe

  32. Could CO2 be to blame? Can anybody say how much water is in that cloud? .. and by exension, how much CO2 is dissolved in that water?

  33. They are visible from the Bay Area today (obviously, from our PoV, along our Eastern horizon). I reckon an inside slider system or Tonopah Low is in play. Hopefully some precip for the Sierra, East of the Sierra and So Cal.

  34. Hey! I just turned the picture upside-down and got a flashback! …I’m OK- I’m OK- I’m OK…

  35. It’s the missing hurricanes and tornadoes, they have to be hiding somewhere, right? Like the heat.

  36. Can can you provide a more precise location so I can see the topography, time would be helpful as well.

  37. Two theories immediately spring to mind:
    1) The most valid theory – Cubness, and the idea that Chicago North Siders actually think the immutable laws of the universe will be broken this year, and they won’t stink again.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex-Cubs_Factor
    2) Made by intelligent life from elsewhere – there have been many suppositions as to what this life might be life over the years – Michael Rennie, Mork from Ork, Alf – all with their plusses and minuses. No matter who the life form turns out to be , you can be sure that people like Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson will be thinking to themselves just what the Pierce Brosnan character was thinking to himself in the highly underrated Mars Attacks – “I can’t touch a creator of the Universe, but these are just more highly developed forms of intelligent life from the same universe – and I, ALONE, am the only one on earth with the ability to TRULY understand them!!!”
    All other explanations are invalid

  38. Its the first time that I’ve seen it, therefore;
    It is the beginning of a new phenomenon, therefore;
    It must be associated with something new, and;
    The only new thing that occurs around here is human induced, therefore;
    It must be associated with human activity and no human activity is benign, therefore;
    We must try to protect our grandchildren from proliferation of the swirly reddish cloud formations, therefore;
    We must pool our resources to study the obvious problem, and as such;
    I am now offering my services and time to manage the resource pool that you all will obviously and happily contribute toward (unless of course you don’t love your grandchildren).
    Please contribute to me in care of WUWT.
    Thank You

  39. I’m with Paul Westhaver, Von Karman vortices being shed from an object at right angles to the wind in atmospheric conditions also suitable for the formation of lenticular clouds.

    • ralfellis

      Why does every American TV and Radio network have a ‘K’ in their acronym?

      There were very, very few radio stations worldwide when the first radios were being sold – and those that did broadcast had little power. So, almost no need for regulation.
      But! Like everything federal, the bigger stations – as they got more powerful wanted (needed) to restrict other stations from broadcasting on the same AM band – no FM yet of course, and, what little FM was broadcast was low-power direct-line-of-sight stations only because FM uses higher frequency waves.
      So, the big stations needed a way to restrict small stations from using their frequency, and the small stations already broadcasting needed a way to make the bigger ones did not keep buying ore and more power to wipe out their own signals. So, they both bought into regulation and licenses.
      All radio stations east of the Mississippi could keep their W _ _ names and their night-time longer-range broadcast power levels. The oldest only needed 3 characters. WSB (Atlanta) and WSM (Nashville for example). WABC WCBS WNBC were already using “company” four-character names, and could keep them. The very few radio stations already running west of the Mississippi could keep their old name (WOAI San Antonio, WTAW Bryan-College Station are examples.)
      Every “new” station west of the Mississippi had to register new frequencies and use a K _ _ _ call sign.
      As part of the registration, if your “daytime” radio frequency was used by somebody else at night with a long-range station, you had to power down your antenna at sunset to eliminate skipping and double reception. At daylight, you could tune back up the power to get a clear signal locally. The big long-range station had to tune their power down at their daylight hour to avoid clashing your signal.

      • WDAY was licensed in 1922, a year or two prior to the W/K prefix convention being adapted by the FRC (predecessor to the FCC) It’s not the only exception. The W East and K West is a guideline, not an absolute rule. By international treaty, the USA has W, K, N and part of the A’s for it’s callsign prefix allocations. Some others are G and M for the UK, AX and some V’s for Australia, CF-CK and some V’s for Canada, F for France, and etc.

  40. The photo was taken from the Tree in Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars. We’re looking at the surface of Mars, upside down.

  41. It looks to me that there is significant condensation and subsequent lifting occurring in the air layers above the base of the lenticular cloud. The non-laminar cumulus clouds can be seen above the lenticular clouds. This is adding additional lift at the peak of the wave and drawing drier air up through the base of the lenticular cloud, creating the holes in the clouds. The development of the strato-cumulus cloud deck above the lower lenticular clouds can be seen in the 3 photo series.

  42. the hole is where all that “missing heat” went!
    enuf jokes here’s the try:
    something like the right temperature gradients in the upper sky layers, with the right saturation limits near dewpoint, combining with the right wind shear factor (or better said: absence of it) so that the “natural” lenticular cloud formation airstreams can show themselves (i suspect a slight updraft in the center and a small downwards flow around it with a very slight spin of the whole cloud?
    i can’t help but it looks a lot like a sattelite picture of a hurricane, however then with the same parameters acting on a very subtile scale in a lenticular. The atmospheric conditions would then be right to see these very subtile airstreams “at work”
    that’s the guess in non meteorolic terms
    an IPCC guess: “with the current peak of CO2 cloud formation is instantly affected which will cause more or less of these formations in the future. it’s a proof climate change is real and that denying it is a serious crime” hahahahahahaha

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