Orographic Clouds Are Amazing!!!

Clouds!  I have Clouds!!!

Thin, beautiful lines of clouds, right above my head!

Yippee!!!!

I quickly grabbed my camera to take a picture.  I couldn't waste even a second.  Those clouds were moving fast.

Click!

Totally black picture.

Oops...

In my excitement, I completely forgot that my camera phone didn't have a flash... and it was just after midnight.  I think this is probably an extreme form of selective memory, no?

Not only that, but I had no clue where my real camera is, and it doesn't allow me to transfer pictures half the time, anyway.  I watched the clouds zoom away.

But they were so awesome that I had to tell you about them!

I know, I know... you're wondering why I'm going crazy over something people see every day.  They're just clouds, after all...

But these were orographic clouds, which are typically formed due to cold, dry upper atmosphere air getting pushed downward by wind at a fate rate, toward warmer humid air.  It then lifts itself back up and repeats the process.

Long, straight, green line labeled "Dry Air".  Below is a blue, wavy line labeled "Humid Air".  Underneath, "Like that" is written in red, 2 arrows drawn pointing up
These clouds are formed when the air is pushed up and over a topographic structure, such as a mountain.

But wait-

I don't live near mountains!!!

What I do live by, however, is hills.  Lots and lots of hills with very different elevations between them.  

Take that, Wikipedia!  Looks like the person who wrote that entry needs to do a bit more research, hmm?

In their defense, this is actually the way science is explained to non-scientists in most places:  

  1. Take a sound scientific principle.
  2. Remove all the aspects that require previous knowledge.
  3. Replace the correct terminology with common words.
  4. End up with an explanation that only slightly resembles the truth.


So basically, a lot of sites, including .edu sites, gave mountains as the sole topographic feature that causes orographic clouds.

Sigh.

Enough of my educational soapbox, though... I'll put it away for now.

What I saw was called a Karman Vortex structure.  

Basically, the clouds form at the areas where the humid air rises to its highest point (see sketch above).  This causes evenly spaced strips of clouds shaped like a V:


Yeah, I know... the drawing is pretty lame.  I've never claimed to be an artist, though, so we'll just go with it.

The process a bit more complicated than my explanation, however, so check out the Karman Vortex link (in bold print) above for more detail. 

My clouds were very thin, which means that humidity wasn't very high when the clouds' formation occurred. They also formed a narrower V. They were beautiful, though.    So beautiful, in fact, that I had to talk to you about orographic clouds... a subject that normally wouldn't interest me very much at all.  This is the first time I've ever seen such a glorious, rather zen-like formation.

Have you ever seen one?  If not, keep your eyes on the skies, and dream.  

Everyone should see this.

  

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