Strange, saucer-shaped clouds were seen in North Saanich on Friday evening. Mark Prive spotted the clouds while on a drive and posted several photos of the saucer-shaped clouds on Facebook.
The proper name for the unique clouds is Altocumulus lenticularis — or less formally lenticular — and they form in very specific conditions, said Chris Emond, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Usually, lenticular clouds form near a barrier like a mountain, so they’re actually fairly common in B.C. because we have lots of mountains and they are oriented perfectly, he said.
The clouds are unique because they don’t move, Emond explained. When the atmosphere is stable and blows across a barrier, the particles must move up to get over the barrier, and when this happens, the drop in temperature can cause the moist air to condense and form a cloud in the lee of the barrier.
As the particles move back down the other side of the barrier, they warm up and begin to evaporate. The flow of particles creating the cloud from one side and evaporating on the other is continuous in one place so the cloud stays put — even if the other kinds of clouds in the sky are moving.
“They form perpendicular to the wind and can get that flying saucer look,” Emond explained.
While lenticular clouds form as a result of a barrier, to an observer on the ground they may not appear to be close to a mountain, he said. However, from a satellite one would see how close they truly are.
Emond also pointed out that while the clouds are statistically more common in B.C., someone could see the clouds once in their life. They’re more common here than in other parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean they’re so common that they’ll be seen in the exact same area multiple times, he explained.
Do you have any cool cloud pictures or unusual phenomena? We’d love to see them.
Send them to the Saanich News Facebook page.