Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flying Saucer over Sicily

Yesterday and again today, I saw something over Mt. Etna that I had never seen, or perhaps noticed, before, a "flying saucer" cloud. The person who pointed it out to me said they only form over volcanoes. Well, it turns out it's not just volcanoes, but actually mountains, and the conditions have to be just right.

I did a little googling and found out that this cloud is a lenticular cloud and that they are "relatively rare phenomena," which made me feel really lucky to have seen them two days in a row. Lenticular means "lens-like." It was one of my eighth-grade students who told me that! Smart kids!

These clouds are formed above mountains (or volcanoes) as air is lifted to saturation over the top of mountains. They are "technically known as altocumulus standing lenticularis" and are stationary and usually aligned at right-angles to the wind direction. Here are a couple of photos I got this morning on my way to work.


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