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June 22, 2019

Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds

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Amy Christie Hunter, who takes landscape photos as a hobby, said her "jaw dropped" when she spotted the cloud formation above rolling over Smith Mountain near Roanoke, Virginia this past Tuesday.

She told Fox News that the moment happened so quickly, she barely had enough time to grab her phone to snap a picture.

She then posted the photo to Facebook, where it went viral.

The clouds that Hunter spotted are known as Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds, which the National Weather Service says are "vertical waves in the air associated with wind shear across statically-stable regions."

The clouds "can appear as breaking waves and as braided patterns in radar images and cloud photos," according to the NWS.

The waves in the cloud are also an indication of severe wind shear, according to the forecasters.

"An extremely rare phenomenon where a cloud produces a billowing wave pattern," the U.K.'s Met Office notes. "They occur when there is a strong vertical shear between two air streams causing winds to blow faster at the upper level than at the lower levels."

The clouds are more likely to appear on windy days and are often "good indicators" of possible aircraft turbulence.

June 22, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


Just from the look of it, I would not fly anywhere near it.

Here's another strange cloud formation:

Posted by: antares | Jun 22, 2019 7:09:28 PM

Also seen in architecture as the Vitruvian wave! The first time I ever saw clouds like this, I couldn't believe my eyes. I've only seen them two or three times.


Posted by: Charlotte K | Jun 22, 2019 1:06:48 PM

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