Mammatus Clouds{Everything You Wanted to Know}

This is a different kind of post for me but if you know me, you know I am addicted to skies and clouds. I love that we get to see so many colours and variations even within one day here on the prairies.

We truly do live in the land of living skies(as per Saskatchewan’s motto).

Earlier this week, while in Regina for my son’s grade 12 graduation, we were under some very intense storm warnings.  Lightning, thunder, large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes were the order of the day.  I would have loved to have been out storm-chasing but I only have one son and he’s only going to graduate once so this was kind of pretty important! 🙂   Anyways, we were caught in the edge of a pretty vigorous storm cell on the north end of Regina mid-way through the evening.  After the storm passed over and the sun came back out, we were treated to a spectacle worthy of international attention: mammatus clouds.  Most people who came outside to take pictures and view the sky had never seen or heard of mammatus clouds. I was giving quick tutorials while pressing the shutter on my camera.  But I thought that with all the attention paid to these bubbly wonders, a longer post might be in order.

My husband has said he’s never seen them before.  But in reality, we all have.  We just don’t see them on this scale usually, or recognize them when we do see them. Because they are associated with the cumulonimbus clouds  that produce thunderstorms here on the prairies, we see them often from spring till fall.  But maybe you don’t notice these after a storm or they pass by too quickly.  I admit, this was a first for me to see such a large display but I have pictures of other times I have seen small pockets of them.

Wikipedia describes them like this:  Mammatus may appear as smooth, ragged or lumpy lobes and may be opaque or translucent. Because mammatus occur as a grouping of lobes, the way they clump together can vary from an isolated cluster to a field of mamma that spread over hundreds of kilometers to being organized along a line, and may be composed of unequal or similarly-sized lobes. The individual mammatus lobe average diameters of 1–3 km and lengths on average of 0.5 km. A lobe can last an average of 10 minutes, but a whole cluster of mamma can range from 15 minutes to a few hours. They usually are composed of ice, but also can be a mixture of ice and liquid water or be composed of almost entirely liquid water.

Also, you might giggle, but the word mammatus comes from the root word mamma meaning breast. So my daughter lovingly calls them “boob clouds”.  Oh yes. That’s what they are!   ** Mammatus, also known as mammatocumulus (meaning “mammary cloud” or “breast cloud”),] is a meteorological  term applied to a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud . The name mammatus, derived from the Latin mamma (meaning “udder” or “breast”), refers to a resemblance between the characteristic shape of these clouds and the breast of a woman.**

Here are the photos I took on Tuesday June 26 in Regina, followed by other photos I’ve taken at different times of mammatus cloud structures.  They are pretty awesome to see in person!

The setting sun giving a nice yellow glow to the clouds.

June 18 during a tornado warned storm. You can see how the light filters between the “bubbles” defining their shapes.

June 18~same storm…..swirly clouds forming into the mammatus. Sometimes there may just be a small area at the edge of a cell that looks like this.

Sometimes mammatus look like this. I liken them to baffles on a mattress. July 20, 2011

They look wavy in these pics. July 20, 2011

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