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[personal profile] ambitious_wench

Detail of lenticular cloud, Lone Pine campground, Whitney Portal Road, Lone Pine, CA. Hey, Moxie! How does this sort of thing happen?

Date: 2010-06-11 08:03 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] moxie_man
Not very easy to explain in layman's terms. Partially, 'cause I haven't had a lot of practice doing so over the past 15 years.

Lenticular Clouds are a type of cumulus cloud (picture puff balls--the kind that form different shapes). They are formed by air being forced up and over a mountain. As the air cools, it can't hold as much evaporated water. The water condenses into tiny droplets and your cloud is formed. As the air makes it over the mountain and sinks on the other side, it warms up a bit and those tiny droplets re-evaporate.

Lenticulars can also form down wind of a mountain range in waves. The air hits the top of the mountain range and ripples (much like the ripple of the cloud in your photo). Picture dropping a rock in a pool and the resulting rippling waves. As this rippling air reaches a certain elevation (dependent on other factors), these clouds will form at the peaks of the rippling. You can sometimes see them in groups at each peak of the ripple. In between the groups, the air troughs downward. The clouds stand still, but there's a lot of turbulence in the air where these clouds form. So, if you're an airplane pilot and you see lenticulars, you would most likely try to avoid that area.

June 2010

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