Saturday, August 25, 2007

When do cloud bottoms appear like bubbles?

When do cloud bottoms appear like bubbles? Normal cloud bottoms are flat because moist warm air that rises and cools will condense into water droplets at a very specific temperature, which usually corresponds to a very specific height. After water droplets form that air becomes an opaque cloud. Under some conditions, however, cloud pockets can develop that contain large droplets of water or ice that fall into clear air as they evaporate. Such pockets may occur in turbulent air near a thunderstorm, being seen near the top of an anvil cloud, for example. Resulting mammatus clouds can appear especially dramatic if sunlit from the side.

Although they look fake, these clouds are very real! They look this way because they are the upper-level "exhaust" of air that is lost from the back side of a supercell thunderstorm. These clouds are rare (especially with such good definition seen here) because it takes extremely strong updrafts inside a thunderstorm to produce the exhaust at high levels in the atmosphere - which then descend and take the strange appearance. The name "mammatus" is derived from the same Latin word that gives us "mammary". Any time you talk about strong updrafts in a thunderstorm, you usually have hail, and this storm had plenty of it.Hail go up to the size of baseballs, which is an excellent indication of the strength of the updraft, since it is the force of the air alone that is lifting hail that large above the freezing layer in large thunderstorms.

Other Cloud Pictures

These pictures are of a wall cloud. They show definite evidence of rotation, and the second one shows "scud" cloud, which is commonly confused with a tornado.

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