Fingers of Gollum

July 18, 2005

Gollum copy

Provided by: John A. Adam, Old Dominion University
Summary authors & editors: John A. Adam

This intriguing wave cloud photo was taken from the grounds and gardens of the Alhambra, near Granada in southern Spain, on a very hot afternoon in late June. I was probably one of the few people out of several hundred with cameras who was actually focusing on the sky! The area surrounding Granada is rather hilly, and this wave cloud was quite long-lived; several hours in fact, but it evolved quite spectacularly by developing broad billows in a matter of minutes from when I first noticed it. To me, it's reminiscent of the flat fingers of Gollum in the movies "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King". I particularly like the transition from the fingers in the upper part of the wave cloud to its smooth rounded base. These orographic or wind-driven lenticular clouds are commonly formed when stable air is forced to rise over hills and mountains. They can also form in the crests of standing gravity waves, sometimes several at a time (unlike this particular instance).

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