Sunday, September 13, 2009

30 Apocalyptic Mammatus Clouds Gather Over the USA

NY_Clouds_Incredible_Mammatus_formations
NY mammatus formations photo: Rahuu

Like portents of doom, mammatus clouds loom overhead, a globular blanket that might seem suffocating if we didn’t know of literally noxious gases released into the ether by human activity. Yet mammatus clouds are as exquisite as they ominous. As their name implies, are a thing of feminine beauty, and with sunlight percolating down through them, it could seem as if heaven itself is unlocking its gates.

Harry_Potter_Clouds_mammatus_over_Lewis_and_Clark_lake_along_the_border_of_Nebraska_and_South_Dakota
South Dakota/Nebraska mammatus clouds photo: Steve took it

The name mammatus comes from the Latin mamma, meaning udder or breast, in reference to the clouds’ shape and the female physiological features they can be seen to resemble. Their texture also recalls hot wax dripping or thick smoke on the ceiling of a burning room – but in reality they are a cellular pattern of pouches hanging beneath the base of a cloud composed of ice or a mixture of ice and water.

Massive_thunderstorm_complex_stretching_down_through_San_Diego_to_the_Mexican_border
San Diego, CA mammatus clouds photo: bruinshorty

When occurring in tall, dense cumulonimbus clouds – or the anvil cloud stretching from them – mammatus often signal the onset of fierce storms and may warn of tornadoes. Tending to form in warmer months over the Midwest and eastern areas of the US, mammatus are nonetheless found elsewhere, as our chase across the States to track this singular meteorological phenomenon will reveal.

California
Mammatus_clouds_and_crepuscular_rays_over_San_Francisco_Bay
Photo: Mila Zinkova

First stop, California, and while the Golden State isn’t renowned for mammatus clouds, the photo above shows that when they do occur – here complete with crepuscular rays over San Francisco Bay – they can make for an impressive sight.

Colorado
Mammatus_clouds_US_Air_Force_Academy_Colorado_Springs_Colorado_October_2004
Photo: markgallagher

This threatening looking shot of mammatus clouds above the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado is actually the aftermath of nature’s own air strike – a nasty storm that took place in October 2004.

Connecticut
Mammatus_Clouds_Connecticut_photographed_after_a_storm_on_June_26_2009_in_Stratford
Photo: Jeff Wignal

The peach coloured mammatus above were snapped after a storm on June 26, 2009 in Stratford, Connecticut. The clouds were quite an event in the region, where crowds gathered in the streets to spy the unusual formations in the sky.

Georgia
mammatus_sunrise_with_buzzards_over_Georgia
Photo: HaleyHyatt

Geeorgia is the location for this almost terrifying mammatus sunrise. The deep red and yellow was likened to the inside of a volcano, and the fast moving clouds swept along a giant flock of buzzards on their thermals. Apocalyptic indeed.

Illinois
Mammatus_Sunset_July_2007_Lexington_Township_McLean_County_Illinois
Photo: lindenbaum

Next, another softer face of the cloud formation. This mammatus sunset was photographed in McLean County, Illinois in July 2007, and what heavenly summer tones to feast the eyes upon.

Iowa
Mammatus_clouds_Iowa_looks_like_hail_weather_vane_severe_weather
Photo: Steve took it

If the weather vane doesn’t warn that there’s a storm a brewing’ then the mammatus clouds certainly do – and it sure as heck hailed shortly after this beautifully composed shot was taken somewhere in Iowa.

Indiana
Mammatus_Clouds_Bloomington_Indiana
Photo: Cat Sidh

Like so many of their kind, these mammatus clouds – with their characteristic lobes – in the skies overlooking Bloomington, Indiana told of extremely strong thunderstorms in the offing.

Kansas
Mammatus_Clouds_Kansas_2008_before_another_night_of_storms_and_tornado_activity
Photo: 3D King

Almost jellyfish like in appearance, these semi-translucent mammatus clouds were photographed in that most famous of storm ridden states, Kansas, before another night of storms and tornado activity in 2008.

Kentucky
watching_for_the_storm_Mammatus_clouds_Kentucky
Photo: Will Montague

As the child in this photo watches for the incoming storm over Scott County, Kentucky, the clouds in the background begin to take on a familiar and menacing mammatus shape.

Maine
Mammatus_Clouds_over_Portland_Head_Light_Maine_Taken_in_advance_of_a_severe_thunderstorm
Photo: CMan3002

Although in this next shot it might seem as if we’re taking a rest from signs of impending doom, the mammatus clouds high in the sky over Portland Head Light in Maine were indeed snapped ahead of a severe thunderstorm.

Michigan
Mammatus_Clouds_Caught_as_a_storm_was_coming_in_from_Lake_Michigan
Photo: dumarismck

These mammatus formations were captured as a storm was rolling in over Lake Michigan. Interestingly, there are numerous competing theories for the mechanisms through which these unique clouds are formed.

Missouri
Strange_clouds_Mammatus_clouds_before_a_tornadic_storm_Fenton_Missouri
Photo: murphy-R

Yet the differing theories agree that between the mammatus clouds – like these, pictured before a tornadic storm in Missouri – and the anvil cloud overhead, there are sharp differences in temperature, moisture, and momentum or wind shear.

Minnesota
Mammatus_clouds_forming_in_Minnesota_in_2005
Photo: Zachary Hauri

The softly toned mammatus clouds shown here lying over Minnesota in 2005 show a seemingly more serene side to this still poorly understood meteorological phenomenon, into which further research needed.

Montana
Mammatus_clouds_over_Montana_Shot_from_10,500'_from_airplane_up_through_the_windshield
Photo: pfflynn

These mammatus clouds were shot from 10,500′ up in an airplane flying over Montana. Even though they were about 3,000′ overhead, the ride was bumpy, so it’s no wonder pilots are strongly advised to avoid cumulonimbus with mammatus.

Nebraska
May_2006_Awesome_Mammatus_Kearny_Nebraska
Photo: nebraskasc

This shot of wave after wave of mammatus clouds rolling in was taken over Kearmy, Nebraska, and it’s no surprise they were the sign of a huge storm brewing. A severe wind shear in the cloud formation tend to mean severe weather on the horizon.

Nevada
Skies_over_Reno_Nevada_Mammatus_clouds
Photo: adventurejournalist

These incredible snapshots of mammatus clouds gathering show the skies over Reno, Nevada, another location where the phenomenon is less commonly seen. Mammatus truly are at once pretty and portentous.

New Jersey
June_26_2009_Spectacular_Sunset_with_mammatus_clouds_as_seen_from_Hoboken_New_Jersey
Photo: Sterne Slaven

This next photo of mammatus clouds as seen from Hoboken, New Jersey is another taken during the spectacular sunset following the summer storm of June 26, 2009. Replete with red hues, the cotton clouds call to mind abstract art.

New Mexico
rollin_mammatus_clouds_New_Mexico_thunderstorm_touched_up?
Photo: jared

There’s perhaps a little Photoshop trickery at play in this next snap, but the mammatus clouds rolling in through the thunderstorm bitten New Mexico sky get the last word.

New York
you'd_think_a_ufo_was_coming_Mammatus_cloud_over_Manhattan_at_sunset_June_26_2009
Photo: Digiart2001 jason.kuffer

Here we see Manhattan resplendent under the mammatus cloud that graced the Big Apple and its environs at sunset, again on June 26, 2009. Some might think a UFO was coming; we say Ghostbusters and watch out for Marshmallow Man.

Oklahoma
Mammatus_Clouds_in_Tulsa_Oklahoma_USA_June_2_1973
Photo: NOAA Photo Library

It’s back in time with this next pic, a famous photo that depicts mammatus clouds in Tulsa, Oklahoma in June, 1973. The blue, billowing mass seems the epitome of beautiful menace.

South Carolina
mammatus_clouds_at_sunrise_South_Carolina
Photo: turbojoe

South Carolina is the stage for this next show by mammatus, with the yellowish-orange cast provided by the light of sunrise adding a tranquil feel to these so often tumultuous clouds.

South Dakota
Severe_thunderstorms_lightning_and_mammatus_clouds_Rapid_City_South_Dakota
Photo: KevinAker

Finally, as so often threatened, the flash of lightning illuminates the scene. Severe thunderstorms and lightning ripped through Rapid City, South Dakota, the latter showing up the accompanying mammatus clouds in for us a new light.

Texas
Mammatus_Clouds_thunderstorm_over_Texas_like_a_brain
Photo: CoreBurn

More beautifully bulging mammatus clouds in this next shot, taken during a thunderstorm in Texas. One observer even likened this particularly foreboding looking formation to a brain.

Utah
Weird_mammatus_clouds_after_a_thunderstorm_that_drenched_Utah
Photo: Fool-on-the-hill

Even by mammatus standards, these cloud formations look strange, due in part no doubt because of the light. They appeared in sky after a thunderstorm that drenched Utah Arts Festival. Perhaps they wanted to be part of the show.

Washington
New_kind_of_Aliens__really_a_very_rare_cloud_formation_for_the_Washington_area_Mammatus_Clouds
Photo: Darlisa Black

No, aliens weren’t landing in Washington State; it was simply the arrival of an exceptionally rare cloud formation for the area – mammatus, which briefly paid a visit to the little town of White Salmon.

Wisconsin
Wisconsin_thunderstorms_mammatus_clouds
Photo: nicholasjon

Despite being boosted a little by HDR, this photo is nevertheless a great capture of the looming mammatus clouds mixed up with a thunderstorm that took place somewhere over Wisconsin.

Wyoming
Beneath_Mammatus Clouds_behind_a_passing_storm_cell_Canyon_Village_Wyoming
Photo: Jonah Westrich / jw creations

Our final image shows the clouds passing behind a passing storm cell encountered on a drive back from Canyon Village in Wyoming. Ominous beauty pervades the air.

4 comments:

jeannette stgermain said...

Ann, you did a lot of research for this post!! What amazing cloud pics! And that one like a volcano in the sky is very scary! Thanks for sharing!

Nancy said...

yes, LOTS of research. I am in awe of these beautiful magical clouds and I've never even heard of them! I will be looking up even more now thanks to you...

Hugs,
Nancy

Gerry said...

All I can say is that this is a cloud type that seems kind of ominous I have never seen or heard of before. They are entirely new for me. And all these photos testify that they are not uncommon. I have never seen them in the west, but maybe they don't form here as they do other places. Gerry

Jason R. Hunter said...

Cool, just wanted to say thanks for using one of my photos. (the one listed as by Coreburn)

If I remember correctly I was looking almost straight up when I took the photos in that series and there was a tornado warning for a storm not very far west of where I was.