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Clouds may just be bundles of condensed water or ice but they can create some of the most stunning and awe-inspiring patterns. The following six cloud formations are a delight to the eye and to the lens.

Try to catch these clouds on camera!

Image Credits: Laurs Plougmann

Mammatus Clouds

These clouds can look like they’ve come straight out of Hollywood disaster film. In fact, for a long time, mammatus clouds were viewed as an omen of a forthcoming catastrophe due to their threatening look. But scientists have discovered they mean the opposite.

The sinking air required to form mammatus clouds actually indicate a weakening thunderstorm. Mammatus clouds form underneath stormy clouds due to a concentration of ice particles that is denser than surrounding particles. This creates the heavy pouch-like look as if the clouds were being drawn back to earth.

Image Credits: Jeff Kubina

Image Credits: Jeff Kubina

Anvil Clouds

Now these are the clouds you should be running from–after you’ve snapped a photo, that is. Anvil clouds are the true harbingers of disaster. They’re a sign of a well-developed storm–which could include anything from lightning, hail, and even a tornado–heading your direction.

Anvil clouds form in the upper part of thunderstorms. They get their flat tops when rising air hit the bottom of the stratosphere which consists of warmer air. This makes the cool storm air expand sideways instead of upwards.

Image Credits: Ian Withnall

Image Credits: Ian Withnall

Lenticular Clouds

Nope, that’s not a UFO! Due to their disk shape and tendency to appear in mountainous areas, lenticular clouds are often mistaken for flying saucers.

These suspicious looking clouds form when moist, flowing air meets an obstruction (think mountains and skyscrapers). Just like how moving water creates ripples in a river when it hits a protruding rock, the moist air at high altitudes creates ripples in the forms of these clouds. Lenticular clouds are immobile, staying wherever they form, but are also quick to evaporate so snap a pic whenever you get the chance!

Image Credits: Clint Tseng

Image Credits: Clint Tseng

Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds

These clouds look like ocean waves and are made pretty much the same way. They’re named after Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, two physicists who studied atmospheric instability.

And instability is exactly what forms these wave-like clouds. They appear when two currents of air in the atmosphere are moving at different speeds. The upper current of air moves at a faster, scooping up the top portions of clouds to create an even rolling formation, just like how heavy winds will scoop up ocean water to form turbulent waves.

Image Credits: Mick Petroff

Image Credits: Mick Petroff

Morning Glory Clouds

You can do more than just photograph these clouds, you can surf them. These morning glory clouds are a popular phenomenon in Northern Australia, the only known place where these clouds appear on a more or less regular basis. Glider pilots are known to flock to the area to get a chance to ride on this fluffy phenomenon.

These rolling clouds can run for hundreds of kilometers long and can appear alone or in groups of up to ten. Because of their rarity, not much is known about what causes these clouds. Locals, however, have noted that morning glory clouds tend to appear on days with high humidity and after strong winds have blown the day before.

Image Credits: Nick Gaffney

Image Credits: Nick Gaffney

Undulatus Asperatus 

Believe it or not, that’s not the ocean.

In 2009, this cinematic cloud formation was proposed by the Cloud Appreciation Society as a whole new classification of cloud. Not much is known about undulus asperatus, except that they most often appear in the Plains states of the U.S. and around midday after storm activity has already passed.

Comment and Share!

Ever caught one of these cloud formations on camera yourself or know of some other bizarre and beautiful cloud formations? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

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