Lenticular Clouds: A UFO Phenomenon

November 18, 2015 | Joanne Kennell

Lenticular cloud formation. Hawaii
Photo credit: Rootmeansquare/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

We all know that UFOs are real. All we need to ask is where do they come from. —  Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell

Lenticular clouds also known as Altocumulus Standing Lenticular (ASL) have been confused for UFOs throughout history and it is easy to see why.  The cloud formations are normally smooth and lens shaped — very similar to a flying saucer — but sometimes can be layered like a stack of pancakes or occur side-by-side.  Lenticular clouds are not a rare occurrence.  They have been seen on every continent in the world and usually form near mountainous regions.

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Lenticular clouds are very interesting because they do not move.  They are constantly reformed over the same region.  You may be wondering how that is even possible.  Clouds move.  Why don’t lenticular clouds?  It all comes down to how they form initially.

The formation of a lenticular cloud is a little complicated.  They are associated with atmospheric waves that develop when fast-moving and relatively stable air is forced over a barrier, such as a mountain, that is positioned more-or-less perpendicular to the direction of the upper-level winds.

Once this stable air passes over the barrier, a mountain wave is formed downwind.  If there is enough moisture and if condensation can occur, lenticular clouds develop in the crest of the mountain waves.  Lenticular clouds are continuously forming and dissipating within and downwind of the wave crest.  That is why they appear to be stationary or “hovering” even though they are surrounded by and have fast winds moving through them.  

How often are these clouds mistaken for unidentified flying objects?  Reports of UFO sightings that turn out to be lenticular clouds are actually quite common.  Washington State’s Mount Rainier has been a UFO sighting hotspot with reports starting as early as 1896.  The mountainous terrain creates ideal conditions for the formation of lenticular clouds.  

In Texas on June 15, 2015 there were more than 50 reports of alien spacecraft hovering over the state.  Meteorologists confirmed that the bizarre formations were in fact lenticular clouds although not everyone was convinced, including members of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).

Most recently, absolutely stunning lenticular clouds were spotted over Cape Town, South Africa on November 10, 2015. The clouds left residents baffled and a little nervous, but to everyone's relief, the alien invasion was not beginning.  Although, the use of lenticular clouds would be a perfect camouflage. Check out this stunning photo of the phenomonon by Instagram user @mijlof

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