Huge Lenticular Cloud Over Lake Tahoe

March 14, 2002


Provided by: John McBryde, Mid-Continent Minerals, Inc.
Summary authors & editors: John McBryde

This four-photograph montage captures at least two spectacular earthly phenomena, three counting the brilliant sunset. Lake Tahoe sits in a graben, or down-thrown set of fault blocks on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, straddling the California – Nevada state line. This beautiful lake is huge, covering almost 200 square miles (518 sq km). It runs over 22 miles (35 km) north/south and 12 miles (19 km) east/west. It is, after Crater Lake in Oregon, the second deepest lake in the U.S. (average depth 1,000’ or 305m). Lake Tahoe contains enough water to flood an area the size of the entire state of California to a depth of 14 inches (36 cm). It is also one of the clearest bodies of fresh water on Earth, with visibility averaging over 100 feet (30 m).

This photomontage also captures a huge lenticular cloud that formed above Lake Tahoe over the span of an afternoon on July 10,1997. The photomontage looks essentially east, towards Nevada from the California side, and swings through more than 180 degrees from north to south. Lenticular clouds are a type of orographic cloud that forms by the interaction of wind an mountainous terrain. The wind had been blowing hard out of the west across the Sierra Nevada mountains since mid-day. This cloud, which spans the length of the lake and then some, began forming in the middle of the afternoon and stayed put for several hours. The setting sun lit it a brilliant orange-red for almost an hour. Images copyright John McBryde.

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