Photo feature: a lenticularly gorgeous sunset along the Front Range of Colorado

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Lenticular clouds at sundown alongside Colorado’s Entrance Vary mountains on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. (Picture: ©Tom Yulsman.)

The cloud formations within the above, and people to observe, could look otherworldly, and perhaps even a bit ominous. However they’re completely benign (besides once they herald an approaching storm), and are well-known to meteorologists.

The scientific identify for these cloud formations is “altocumulus standing lenticularus.’ However from right here on out, I’ll simply seek advice from them lenticular clouds.

If you happen to’ve by no means seen lenticular clouds like these earlier than, whether or not in photos or in individual, you is likely to be tempted to consider that I’ve gone bananas with Photoshop. By no means. I can guarantee you that what’s depicted in these pictures is what I noticed this previous weekend close to my house in Niwot, Colorado, simply east of the Entrance Vary. (However within the curiosity of full disclosure, I’ve brightened the shadows a bit in order that the panorama would look because it did to my very own eyes.)

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The lenticular cloud formations as they appeared shortly after the Solar had set. Gold colours dominated, with orange, purple and even inexperienced to observe because the sundown progressed. (Picture: ©Tom Yulsman)

Lenticular clouds like these typically type when sturdy winds aloft are pressured up and over excessive mountains. And thoughts you, ours are significantly excessive! Within the photograph on the prime of this publish, the mountain seen simply to the left of my spouse and approach within the distance is Longs Peak, elevation 14,259 toes.

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Schematic of lenticular mountain waves. (Supply: Nationwide Climate Service)

The air pressured upward by the mountains is analogous to water flowing in a swift stream over a rock. Simply downstream of the rock, the water then accelerates again downward – solely to rise again up in a number of standing waves. These are akin to the ripples that happen whenever you throw a pebble in a pond.

This schematic illustrates the phenomenon. Moist air is pressured upward because it passes over the mountain, and once more in a standing wave downstream. As these parcels of air rise, they cool. And that cooling causes moisture to condense into clouds on the crests of the waves.

Usually, these clouds can appear like alien craft. However right here alongside the Entrance Vary they’re typically layered and contorted in intricate, spectacular patterns — accentuated, after all, by the good sundown glow. What’s up with that?

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©Tom Yulsman

These patterns happen as turbulent winds within the standing waves sculpt the clouds. Additionally, there will be a number of oscillations stacked up, one atop the opposite, creating layering within the cloud formations.

Add all of it collectively, throw within the sundown gentle, and also you get what you see within the pictures above, in addition to the others to observe.

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©Tom Yulsman

Because the sundown progressed, the orange and purple colours turned to pink – after which eerie greenish tones started to emerge! I’m fairly positive this is similar phenomenon typically noticed with thunderstorms occurring late within the day.

Within the photograph above, some elements of the cloud formation are now not catching as a lot of the Solar’s fading gentle as different elements are. So these parts seem darker. And although you may’t see it right here, they’re additionally bluish as a result of scattering of sunshine by cloud water droplets. On the identical time, this darker, bluer a part of the cloud formation is nonetheless receiving some yellowish gentle from the solar.

And what do you get whenever you add blue and yellow? Inexperienced after all!

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©Tom Yulsman

The sunshine continued to fade till the entire cloud formations had taken on that vaguely greenish forged. It appeared like sundown was carried out, so we began again towards house.

However from previous expertise I knew that generally the sundown glow can return – and so it did this time. The picture above exhibits what that regarded like.

I’m not positive why this occurs, however I think that although the Solar is under the horizon, its gentle will be bent up and over it by refraction. Why this could occur in two separate episodes, one earlier and the second later, I don’t know. When you’ve got an thought, share it within the feedback part.

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©Tom Yulsman

I depart you with this picture – a closeup of the clouds shot with a telephoto lens. It exhibits element within the cloud formation simply earlier than the second wave of sundown glow dissipated.

It’s one thing of a Rorschach take a look at. I’ll depart it to you to interpret what you see right here…

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