Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Strange (and Rare) Clouds
In June of last year stormchaser Mike Olbinski, who chases storms across the United States to collect footage of supercells, lightning, tornados, was northeast of Bismarck, North Dakota and as storms were dying out, he and his crew decided to check out a lone cell on the backside of a line of storms. They knew it had a hail core on it and was hoping for some nice sunset colors and some lightning.
There appeared undulatus asperatus clouds, a rare phenomenon. The Cloud Appreciation Society was formed to get recognition for a new category of cloud called the undulatus asperatus.
For years, individuals from across the world had been sending its founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, pictures of the unusual formations which had no official name, trying to figure out what they were. It took nine years, but the World Meteorological Organization finally recognized Pretor-Pinney’s clouds in the updated version of the International Cloud Atlas, though the name was shortened to “asperitas.”
The formation is described as “localized waves in the cloud base, either smooth or dappled with smaller features, sometimes descending into sharp points, as if viewing a roughened sea surface from below. Varying levels of illumination and thickness of cloud can lead to dramatic visual effects. Asperitas clouds tend to be low-lying, and are caused by weather fronts that create undulating waves in the atmosphere.
In Olbinski's case, they crew had a storm with hail in front of them and flashing lightning. Then the sun slowly appeared from behind some clouds to the west and lit up the storm like nothing they had ever seen before.