Rare and ominous cloud formations explained

2 years 5 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, May 26 2016 May 26, 2016 Thursday, May 26, 2016 8:16:00 PM CDT May 26, 2016 in Weather
By: Kenton Gewecke, KOMU 8 Weathercaster
Roll cloud over Versailles, MO via Dani Zurmiller at 7 AM Thursday

MID-MISSOURI - If you looked at the sky Thursday evening you might have noticed a few mysterious and ominous clouds overhead. KOMU 8 Weathercaster Kenton Gewecke explains.

Today is one of those days I will always remember, not because of severe weather necessarily, but because the sky was an amazingly rare sight...multiple times.

The interesting cloud formations started Thursday morning. At 7 a.m., KOMU 8 News viewer Dani Zurmiller snapped the picture above. It almost looks photoshopped it is so magnificent. This is called a roll cloud. It likely formed here because there was what we call an "outflow boundary" moving through. An outflow boundary moves ahead of a thunderstorm and is cooler air pushing forward. This colder air then ran into warm and moist air at the surface and created this cloud formation. Likely, if we were to see a time lapse of this cloud moving through, we would see it forming in the front and dissipating in the back, all while moving forward. This creates the rolling illusion. It is rather rare!

The clouds above are mammatus clouds! They are some of my favorite clouds because they just look so interesting in the sky. Mammatus clouds form when pockets of warm and moist air are surrounded by cooler air. They form in conjunction with thunderstorms because they need buoyancy, or convection, in the atmosphere to create the wind and temperature differences needed to support the formation. 

This video shows a weak scud cloud. This a "false alarm" cloud. A boundary is moving by and slightly mixing the atmosphere to create the wispy cloud circulations. Sometimes these can even move down from the cloud and look like a funnel cloud! It's an area of warm and moist air combining with an updraft and outflow boundary.

Now this one really is weird. This is a lenticular cloud! It also happens to be one of my favorite clouds, but I rarely see it in Missouri. Why, you might ask? They're almost always mountainous clouds! They form over mountains due to the stable and moist air shooting up over top the mountain peak and running into disruptive winds. This likely formed in Moberly because there was an updraft pushing warm and moist air up into a pool of cooler air that also happened to have winds different enough to create the formation.

What a day!

Showers and thunderstorms will continue to move through overnight and become more widespread again Friday afternoon and evening. Flash flooding may be a concern. For the full forecast straight from the Live Doppler 8 First Alert Weather Center watch KOMU 8 newscasts and go to our Weather Page and download the free KOMU 8 Weather App on Apple and Android devices. You can track storms with our Interactive Radar there, too. Stay tuned.

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