John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The thing appeared ready to vaporize an entire neighborhood.
Residents of Las Vegas, New Mexico, might have wondered last evening if something had escaped from Roswell. Looming over the horizon was a cloud with the spitting image of a classic UFO, so massively structured it looked like it could atomize the building-blasting motherships of Independence Day.
The above photos were sent by viewers to Jorge Torres, chief meteorologist at KOB-TV, who identified the thing as a ”[l]enticular cloud or even a shelf cloud.” The latter are intimidating, horizon-eating rollers often attached to thunderstorms—and indeed, the region is under a winter-storm warning for a snowy front with possible whiteout conditions. The former clouds typically materialize above mountains or other land masses that draw wind upward, though on rare occasions they’ve developed in flat places like Texas.
The UFO cloud wasn’t the only weird thing to drop out of New Mexico’s storm-roiled skies. Torres also shared these shots of a lumpy funnel extending from a cloud in Roswell: