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Fri Feb 14, 2020, 02:26 PM

"It might be an alien invasion. Or, you might just be in Weed, California."

I've been to Weed, California. There might be others, but I don't know where.

"It might be an alien invasion. Or, you might just be in Weed, California." https://wapo.st/2Hscf4o #lenticular

Capital Weather Gang

Saucer-like cloud lights up skies in California

The skies in Weed, Calif., were lit, thanks to a seemingly alien cloud

By Matthew Cappucci
February 14 at 1:37 PM

It might be an alien invasion. Or, you might just be in Weed, Calif.

Flying saucerlike apparitions are no stranger to the skies in Weed, a city of roughly 3,000 people in Siskiyou County in northern California. Nestled just west of Mount Shasta, the community offers stunning views of the Golden State’s fifth-highest peak. In addition to its beauty, the 14,179-foot volcanic mountain has become adept at one other thing: producing lenticular clouds.

Lenticular clouds, or “lennies,” as many meteorologists refer to them, often resemble flying saucers, hockey pucks or heaping stacks of pancakes. They form by the drove in mountainous environments with chaotic wind patterns.

Lenticular clouds form when comparatively moist air rides up a mountaintop, forced into a cooler layer of air above. If the cool-down is significantly large, the air parcel can become chilled to saturation, forming a cloud. Downwind of the mountain, the air eventually sinks lower in the atmosphere, drying out and eroding any visible cloud. As such, wind-sculpted lenticular clouds are usually local.

A diagram illustrating the process through which a lenticular cloud formed near sunrise downwind of Mount Shasta on Wednesday morning. (Google/Matthew Cappucci)

They are most readily visible when the atmosphere as a whole is stable and layered. In other words, there’s no organic upward motion to create clouds elsewhere. Just the localized forcing of air upward by a mountain peak — in this case, Mount Shasta.


Read more

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Lenticulars hover over Charlottesville

Matthew Cappucci
Matthew Cappucci is a meteorologist for Capital Weather Gang. He earned a B.A. in atmospheric sciences from Harvard University in 2019, and has contributed to The Washington Post since he was 18. He is an avid storm chaser and adventurer, and covers all types of weather, climate science, and astronomy. Follow https://twitter.com/MatthewCappucci

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