Ominous Mammatus

Mammatus clouds over Nebraska, June 2004.

Mammatus clouds are fairly unusual and often look quite dramatic. Most clouds have flat bottoms, caused by the specific height and temperature at which their droplets condense. But mammatus clouds have bubble-like bottoms that are thought to form when large droplets of water or ice sink as they evaporate. Although they can occur in the turbulence caused by a thunderstorm, mammatus clouds themselves are not a storm cloud. They appear in non-stormy skies, too. The clouds are particularly striking when they’re lit from the side, as in the image above. (Image credit: J. Olson; via APOD)

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