Lenticular Clouds

One of many majestic atmospheric effects New Mexico has to offer.

On Wednesday (Feb 3rd) I tweeted (#NMwx), a picture (top) of these spaceship looking clouds over the Organ Mountains in Southern New Mexico . The view is from the western mesa in Las Cruces. (The other two were taken on 12 Dec 2020, before sunset and as the sun was setting.) I wasn’t the only one, many images covered Twitter with #NMwx.

Any time they show up, I get multiple inquiry’s as to what they are. Impressive to look at, many times they look some future looking spacecraft, or for New Mexico a space alien craft.

It is always something causing you to take pause as they are not seen everyday, or everywhere. It is but one of the many majestic atmospheric effects (#AtmoFX) New Mexico has to offer alongside the purple hue depicted in so much artwork and the “Albuquerque Box” that makes for a perfect place for the Balloon Fiesta, to name a few.

So, what are they and how are they formed?

They are called Lenticular clouds, or technically these are Altocumulus Standing Lenticular (ACSL) clouds as informed by the National Weather Service – El Paso tweet about the same phenomenon (below). [ Alto – is middle part of the atmosphere; cumulus clouds are more isolated clouds and more convective in nature (“puffy”) as oppose to stratus which are stratified and cover a layer of the atmosphere]

A little moisture, some strong wind above us, mountains & associated turbulence can bring Altocumulus Standing Lenticular (ACSL) clouds. These appeared this afternoon near the Organ Mountains NM courtesy of Greg Lundeen.


#nmwx #txwx

Originally tweeted by NWS El Paso (@NWSElPaso) on February 4, 2021.

Lenticular Clouds are a phenomena caused by strong winds encountering a feature, in this case the Organ Mountains. In doing so the flow is diverted up and over the mountains. When there is enough moisture in the air, those air parcels cool as they increase in height until they reach saturation and become, for lack of a better term, a cloud drop. Then, as the wind takes those parcels down the other side of the mountain the air parcels warm as they descend and the drops evaporate. All with the appearance of a stationary (or standing) cloud.

Celebrate the unique atmospheric effects here in New Mexico and show us what you see with #NMwx.

Enjoy additional, breathtaking photo’s tweeted on Wednesday below by the NM State Climatologist (@NMClimate) and (@AstroCristo)#AtmoFX.

Great lenticular cloud display today from Las Cruces. It provided a good distraction from preparing multiple drought presentations for next week. Of course I had to get a better view from Tortugas Mtn. #nmwx

Originally tweeted by Dave DuBois (@NMClimate) on February 4, 2021.

Some wicked Lenticular cloud action over the Organ Mountains today! ☁️

Full-Res: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmTX4gQF


Originally tweeted by Cristo Sanchez (@AstroCristo) on February 4, 2021.