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Interesting cloud formations

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‘UFO Clouds’ Are Real. Here’s How They Happen. Technically called “lenticular clouds,” the weird phenomenon seen over Cape Town has a simple explanation.

Social media users in Cape Town, South Africa, posted photos over the weekend that call to mind classic alien invasion movies. The pictures feature eerie, saucer-shaped puffs that seem to hang over the sky like UFOs.

But these so-called “UFO clouds” are nothing to fear.

As the wind flows over large features it may cool, causing it to condense into disk-shaped clouds that develop perpendicular to the direction of the air flow.

The clouds in the latest viral photos are called stratocumulus standing lenticularis, because of their height and shape. Lenticular is a Latin word that means lens-like, another reference to their shape. (See more photos of “UFO clouds” from National Geographic’s Your Shot community.)

A number of past reports of UFO sightings have been linked to lenticular clouds, which can form in many places around the world. (Other UFO sightings have been attributed to hole-punch clouds, which are formed by miniature snowstorms in thin, subfreezing cloud layers.) 

“The aliens have been monitoring [sic] cape town for years now,” Instagram user monre44 quipped over the weekend.

‘Surf’s up on the alien cloud’? Spooky formation spotted on Washington state’s Mt. Rainier (Photo: Ross Troxa)

SEATTLE, Wash. (KOMO) – Mt. Rainier in Washington state is known for being a frequent canvas for lenticular clouds to dance around and put on spooky alien-like formations, and this past Tuesday was no different.

But this wasn’t an ordinary lenticular cloud display; Ross Troxa captured a rare event on top of a rare event!

The huge mass that looks either straight out of “Independence Day” — or possibly for the uber sci-fi geeks, the saucer section of the Starship Enterprise after it just separated — is an example of lenticular clouds. Those are caused by the turbulence as moist air moves over Mt. Rainier and the rising motion causes it to cool just enough to make a cloud.

But look on top of the cloud — there are small waves!

Credit: COTT SISTEK, KOMO

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