Lenticular clouds over the Boulder foothills

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Oct. 21 2009 4:00 PM

Lenticular clouds over the Boulder foothills

One thing I love about Colorado is that things I used to think were rare are actually rather common here. For example, lenticular clouds are lens-shaped (hence the name) clouds that sometimes form when air flows over the mountains in a certain way. Where I grew up on the east coast they were non-existent, but here, a few miles downwind of the Rocky Mountains, I see them pretty often.

While I was at the gym the other day I saw a nice one, and posted a pic using my phone, but the cloud is a bit small and hard to see. After my workout, I got home, climbed onto my roof and, using a better camera, got this shot:

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Sadly, by the time I got home the formation started to falter, but you can still see the elongated, oddly-sculpted shape. The knobby formation on the ridge line is called The Devil's Thumb, and is located south of Boulder on the foothills.

I took a second picture at a faster exposure time so that details weren't washed out, and that one is on the right (you can click both to embiggen).

I remember seeing lenticular clouds practically every day last fall, so I'm looking forward to seeing better ones here soon. They're very cool, and another in a long list of things you might miss if you don't simply look up every once in a while.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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