Four O'clock Lents Over Bailey's Peak, North Carolina

February 12, 2014


Photographer: Doug Sudduth; Doug's Web site
Summary Authors: Doug Sudduth; Don Collins

This 15-minute time-lapse animation shows a classic lenticular cloud hovering above Bailey's Peak not far from the Black Mountain range in western North Carolina.  On the afternoon of January 22, 2014, I had just finished plowing snow beneath a clear blue sky. Soon after walking inside I glanced out my window and watched as the sky exploded with lents (lenticular clouds). On some winter days here it seems they pop up on cue, at 4 o'clock, like they're on a train schedule.

Lenticular clouds are often almond or lens shaped mid-level clouds that typically form when air near the surface encounters elevated terrain such as a mountain range. As they form in crests of stationary waves, they propagate very little with respect to their underlying topography. The animation was taken approximately 12 mi (19 km) from Mount Mitchell on January 22, 2014. In fact, it's downstream from a standing wave that was over Mt. Mitchell the same day. See Related Links below. See also yesterday’s Earth Science Picture of the Day.