John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It's rare to find these types of formations in the South.
The outlandish clouds appeared over Texas during this week’s almighty rainfall and flooding. They looked like floating stacks of johnnycakes or, for the sci-fi-minded, Zorg battleships invading to harvest our vital fluids. Here’s a second shot near the city of Hearne:
The clouds themselves are not particularly unusual; what is odd was their arrival in Texas. They’re called lenticular clouds, and they generally form where powerful wind flows in waves over massive landmasses—think the Rockies, Mount Fuji, and Washington’s Mount Rainier. They also sometimes engulf Hawaii’s volcanic peaks, as shown here in Kona:
Collier guesses the lenticular jubilee in Texas was caused by a “vertical dense cold pool behind a complex of storms.” And though people have spread all sorts of nutty theories about HAARP and chemtrails, the meteorologist assures they’re not dangerous, just “really cool to look at.”