Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Strange and beautiful "UFO" clouds

Location: Pirinopolis, Goias, Brazil
Date: February 2005

Regina Sylvia sent us this series of three amazing photos that she described as “UFOs disguised as clouds“. We suggested to her that they could have been just clouds, and she told us that:
“This ‘cloud’ was something strange… If it was just a cloud… I don’t know, but on this day we were going to the Pirineus (in Pirinopolis, Goias), and as we stopped at the city we saw this first cloud. Huge, amazing. Afterwards on our house, around two hours later, we saw the same cloud, huge, but it wasn’t just one, as there was another, smaller, a little to the left. The night came and… another cloud appeared in the same place, lit as if the Moon was behind it.”

At first sight, we thought these were just common lenticular clouds, as we told Regina. These clouds are formed with strong, vertical winds on irregular terrain. They also resemble “mountain cap” clouds, formed over the top of mountains.

But the images are not like the common lenticular clouds — as noted by Andreia Tschiedel, who remarked that these clouds are joined closely by other types of clouds. The first image shows a cumulus clouds along with the intriguing semi-spherical, translucent cloud. Were they UFOs disguising as clouds? Well, we Googled some more, and found a possible prosaic explanation.

Nuvem PileusThey are Pileus clouds. “Pileus caps are made of ice crystals high in the troposphere. They form as a slab of air is shoved upward, in the shape of a dome or cap, just above a rapidly rising convective tower. Moisture in the dome condenses directly into an ice fog as the air rises and cools, forming the pileus. Next, the convection shoots right through the pileus layer. The lifted layer above the convective tower can’t be too dry (must have high humidity), or the pileus cap won’t develop.

As images may be worth more than words, we present the image of the month for May 2005 of the Cloud Appreciation Society, taken by Justin Moore:

(source: CAS Cloud of the Month, May 2005)

With thanks to Regina Sylvia for the beautiful images.

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