Introducing nature's strangest shaped cloud, the Lenticular Cloud!
Imagine seeing this unearthly, weird cloud looming over the mountains in the twilight! Would you mistake it for an alien space ship?
Well you wouldn't be the first to mistake this strange cloud for a huge UFO coming to visit earth! Actually, it's an Altocumulus Lenticularis, commonly known as a lenticular cloud. Amazing isn't it!
Lenticular clouds are often mistaken for UFOs or alien activity! They have a smooth shape, completely unlike most clouds, and the way they just seem to hover adds to their mystery.
This page looks at how and why this magnificent cloud happens. For some of you, you may see Lenticular clouds on a regular basis but many of us may never be so lucky to see one.
Lenticular cloud formation
There are three types of Lenticular cloud, the lowest is Stratocumulus Standing Lenticularis found at 8000 feet, the most common seen is the Altocumulus Standing Lenticularis, found between 8000 to 20,000 feet high. The highest one is the Cirrocumulus Standing Lenticularis, at over 24,000 feet and very rare because there are only a few mountains that are that high. Lenticularis is the Latin for lens, or lentil.
When strong moist air encounters a mountain, it ascends and drops the other side, then rises up again. This causes a wave wind, on the leeward side of the mountain. Wave winds are also known as lee winds or standing wave winds, it's a wind that remains in a constant position. On the crest of each wave a lenticular cloud forms due to adiabatic expansion cooling, which is where the air pressure is cooled below the dew point. Lenticular clouds are normally at right angles to the wind direction.
See the diagram below, which illustrates how lee waves occur.
How lee waves occur
Lenticular cloud features
The appearance of lenticular clouds are smooth, giving the UFO flying saucer shape, or layered, uncannily like a stack of pancakes! An amazing feature of this cloud is that it appears to be completely stationary - often staying in the same place for many hours and sometimes days. This is due to the wave winds holding it in place.
Popular nicknames for these clouds are:
- UFO Clouds
- Flying Saucer Clouds
- Clouds of heaven
- Angelship clouds
- Wave clouds
A Lenticular cloud in the Bible?
.....and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.
Exodus 24:16 (New International Version)
Is it safe to fly through Lenticular clouds?
The appearance of lenticular clouds means that there are strong winds, a wave wind has a strong vertical and downward movement - meaning turbulence. The mountain wave wind can occur for over 100 miles past the mountain range, and can exist up into the troposphere and down into the lower stratosphere. So, airplane pilots will avoid flying near lenticular clouds as it can mean extreme turbulence as the atmospheric conditions are so dramatic. Injury to airplane crew and passengers is very likely to happen.
However, glider pilots love to fly through standing lenticular clouds and mountain wave winds! The strong lift of this wind was first discovered by a glider pilot, Wolf Hirth in 1933. Gliding in a wave wind causes the aircraft to soar dramatically, and glider pilots often need to use pressure suits and have oxygen masks to help them breathe.
UFO sightings and Lenticular clouds
Just a cloud? Or are UFOs paying us a visit?
People often mistake altocumulus lenticularis clouds for UFOs or flying saucers, and who can blame them - they do look very other worldly! When the sun sets these clouds can look like something from a Salvador Dali painting.
Some people also believe that aliens hide in lenticular clouds, but why would they choose something so obvious? The psychologist Carl Jung believed that people see flying saucers just as people from ancient civilizations "saw" their gods in the sky. In this modern age, instead of Zeus or Odin, we see spaceships
A mountain often photographed with lenticularis clouds is Mount Shasta in California, which is 14,179 feet high. See the photo below, with the beautiful lenticular cloud as a wonderful example. Mount Shasta often has spectacular weather and clouds due to orographic lifting - when there is mountain in the way, wind is force upwards and if there is enough moisture in the air, amazing clouds form. Take a look at this webpage about Mount Shasta which gives a clear meteorological explanation as to why lenticular clouds are seen so often over this volcano.
Mount Shasta - Are there aliens up there?
The myth of Mount Shasta....
There is a myth that there is a secret kingdom inside Mount Shasta, inhabited by a mysterious hidden community called Lemurians. The Lemurians are advanced human beings with many supernatural powers and use spacecraft to travel out of the mountain. Some say that the lenticular clouds are actually their spaceships descending onto the mountain....
Visit The Lemurian Connection website that explains in depth the strange goings on at Mount Shasta, including the coming and going of spaceship activity!
UFO or cloud....can you tell them apart?
Your Opinion about UFO clouds - please take part in my lenticular cloud poll below!
SPOTTED! A stunning Lenticular cloud!
If you have Lenticular cloud photos you would like posted here, let me know!
These beautiful and unusual cloud photos were taken by Zoe Murdock in Ojai, California. Zoe is a writer, who has very kindly let me use her photos. Check out her author facebook page here.
Watch Lenticular clouds forming - a time lapse video
© 2010 LadyFlashman
Have you seen a Lenticular cloud? If you have great photos of Lenticular clouds and you would like to see them featured on this page, let me know!
Ross Buonaguidi on September 10, 2014:
I took a picture of a lenticular cloud that REALLY looks like it's covering up a UFO, but I live in the flat lands of Illinois just outside of Chicago. There's not a mountain or even a hill for 100 miles in any direction. It was near sundown and I was facing the east when I took my picture and out of the bottom of the cloud is a radiant orange and red light coming from the cloud.....can you explain that to me? I have the picture, just not really sure how to post it on here.
Jim Houston from Wilmer, Alabama on February 23, 2014:
Outstanding lens. I have only seen one lenticular in my lifetime and it was truly amazing. You have some beautiful photos posted. There have been some speculations is some news stories about ufo's using a similar cloud formation as a shield. I don't think there is any doubt at this stage of the game as to whether they exist and it is just a matter of time before disclosure takes place. JimHouston33
PaigSr from State of Confusion on May 19, 2013:
Yes I watch clouds. Its hard at work when I don't have a window seat. Even harder is when driving and seeing how the clouds. And I wonder if all these other drivers are looking up or just forward until they get to where they are going?
greentiger11 on April 22, 2013:
I love clouds. Man I could sit back with a corona and stare at them all day long! hahaha. If you believe in the possibility of ufos, you should really check out the documentary that will be airing tonight. Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/d98hdqp
empathzone on April 10, 2013:
I had never paid attention to these clouds, they are beautiful! Great lens, thanks for sharing! :)
Pat Goltz on October 01, 2012:
I see small lenticular clouds, usually among other clouds, a few times a year. This is a wonderful lens. Thanks again for sharing all this great information!
Michey LM on September 21, 2012:
The pictures are spectacular, well presented lens, about UFO of not, I will say NO, but I can be wrong... who really knows!
VspaBotanicals on September 13, 2012:
SecondHandJoe LM on July 06, 2012:
I was lying on my back on the boat yesterday, and thought I saw a few lenticular clouds appear. I was wrong-- they ended up just being UFO's. What a disappointment! Great lens- really enjoyed the video! Thanks.
AngelDeanSquidoo on July 05, 2012:
LilibeanNP on July 04, 2012:
I LOVE this lens! These clouds ARE amazing. I haven't ever seen one in real life but I certainly hope to some day. I especially love the lore you included about the UFOs and the Lemurians. That stuff fascinates me. =) Great read!!
Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on July 02, 2012:
I believe I've seen close to it, though not quite as flat as these ~ Beautiful clouds! Happy UFO day! B : )
williemack58 on July 02, 2012:
I never heard that on occasions Lenticular clouds are mistaken for flying saucers, interesting information.
Rosaquid on July 02, 2012:
I love this lens! I chose it for my UFO Day Quest. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the photos! Thank you.
anonymous on May 19, 2012:
Here is a very unusual lenticular cloud that appeared over Santa Barbara, CA yesterday: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.32877360...
neuromancer lm on April 18, 2012:
Awesome picture, I'm sure some of the UFO sighitings are in fact these clouds.
Fantastic Voyages from Texas on March 20, 2012:
Wow! These are really neat! I've never heard of, nor seen, such a cloud!
flycatcherrr on March 20, 2012:
Fabulous photos! I can certainly see how a lenticular cloud could be mistaken for something other-worldly.
mjohansson on March 18, 2012:
These clouds are really cool! Have seen several of them in the wake of Mt. Etna on Sicily, they are really amazing!
Dana Marie from St. Peters, MO on March 12, 2012:
Very cool!!!! Never saw a cloud like that here in the midwest :( Thanks for sharing
agoofyidea on March 11, 2012:
I saw lots of lenticular clouds when I worked at Mt. Rainier National Park. They rock.
David Dove on August 31, 2011:
utterly beautiful, thank you
Blackspaniel1 on April 17, 2011:
Excellent images. I have seen other excellent ones on Plymouth State University's site.
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on April 16, 2011:
Spectacular! I love clouds and often find myself just mesmerized by their exquisite beauty. I've been seeing some clouds that look like these lately. Because I have four high mountains in my backyard I get really interesting clouds, wind, and weather patterns. The clouds are the best part of it. Thanks for a beautiful lens!
anonymous on March 19, 2011:
How interesting, fascinating and beautiful ~ the sky show is amazing.
Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on January 16, 2011:
I've never seen a lenticular cloud, and I watch the skies pretty often. It must be the area that I live.
BrickHouseFabrics on December 31, 2010:
I used to see them over the mountains of the west.
jimmyLane on December 28, 2010:
Marvellous photos and very informative
julieannbrady on December 08, 2010:
Oh Oh ... LCA ... Lenticular Cloud Alert ... Brooksville, Florida ... December 8, 2010, 1:44pm EST.
Elizabeth Sheppard from Bowling Green, Kentucky on October 12, 2010:
What great pictures! I enjoyed this lens a lot.
Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on July 13, 2010:
Never, but I've driven by Mt. Shasta many times. Next time I'll be on the lookout for them.
justholidays on July 02, 2010:
These clouds are amazingly marvelous! You're a talented cloud amateur, Lucy! Congrats on this exquisite page! I enjoyed the visit and hope that you won't stop building those fantabulous cloud lenses.
Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on July 02, 2010:
I have never SEEN or even HEARD of a lenticular cloud! Guess because I've never been around a really high mountain range. Absolutely fascinating and the pictures are gorgeous!
callinsky lm on June 26, 2010:
Very neat. Very informational. Gorgeous photos. Very well done lens.
davemin on June 22, 2010:
have never seen clouds like these before and found this information really interesting, great photos of lenticular clouds
kimmanleyort on June 22, 2010:
Fantastic! Great photos, videos and writing. These clouds are fascinating and you've presented them in an entertaining and educational way.
Dianne Loomos on June 22, 2010:
Driving down from Lake Tahoe one day we saw a whole "fleet" of lenticular clouds. It was an amazing sight. It was not unusual to see them there from time to time. Enjoyed reading about lenticular clouds!
Light-in-me on June 22, 2010:
Very cool and interesting, I enjoyed my visit.
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on June 22, 2010:
Now those are really cool clouds! They do indeed look like UFOs - amazing.
Glory Miller from USA on June 22, 2010:
Great lens, thumbs up for sure.
anonymous on June 21, 2010:
Wow I never seen this clouds before. But I saw a picture that shows like a pair of eye after earthquake in idonesia, it was like so real! Your lens picture is nice too, especially 1st one!
myraggededge on June 21, 2010:
Fantastic! Your cloud lenses are terrific. These are amazing! Blessed by a cloud-surfing Squid angel :-)
Jeanette from Australia on June 21, 2010:
None in Australia :-( They look spectacular in the photos!
aishu19 on June 21, 2010:
Wow!! Never knew clouds could look like UFOs...I do hope I get to see one someday...Nice descriptions and a great cloudy lens....