Lenticular clouds above mountains surrounding Death Valley. (Photo credit: Eastcott Momatiuk/Thinkstock)
Few things are more captivating to meteorologists than seeing a stunning cloud right outside the front door. Particularly, one of these ten spectacular clouds.
Lenticular clouds are most common near or downwind of mountain ranges. Their "flying saucer" appearance is owed to the forced ascent of stable air over mountain ranges.
By stable air, we mean air that when forced to rise, does not accelerate upward (as in, say, cumulonimbus clouds) but rather comes back down, as it turns colder, or more dense, than the surrounding air.
The lenticular cloud denotes the upward part, or crest, of the mountain wave of air. You can't see the downward part, or trough, of the wave, since air moving down dries out. As long as the ambient weather conditions (winds, humidity) are unchanged, the cloud won't move, appearing to hover near the mountain range.