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Spectacular lenticular cloud appears on the horizon

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 8:26am MDT

Spectacular lenticular cloud appears on the horizon.  Soon after this morning’s sunrise, sky watchers were treated to a great example of a lenticular cloud.  Hovering over the Colorado Front Range, the National Weather Service’s Denver / Boulder office captured a photo of the cloud and the Flatirons.

Lenticular clouds are one of the least common types of clouds and typically only occur at high altitudes near mountains with strong winds – both of which Colorado has in abundance.  These virtually stationary lens-shaped formations have been mistaken for UFO’s due to their rare appearance and unique saucer shapes.

Also known by their scientific name of altocumulus standing lenticularis, these clouds are not entirely unusual in Colorado on the Front Range during the winter.  Strong jet winds force moist air to be pushed up by the rugged terrain of the adjacent Rocky Mountains.  This creates a wave-like pattern of air flow that condenses at high altitudes (usually around 20,000 feet).

Altocumulus Standing Lenticular cloud over the Flatirons on Tuesday, February 5, 2012. (NWS)

Altocumulus Standing Lenticular cloud over the Flatirons on Tuesday, February 5, 2012. (NWS)

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