Cloud of the Month

Mamma (June ’05)

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(Click image to enlarge) (Image © Bill Lowe)

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With her pendulous udders, this mother’s cooking up a storm. She’s known as the mammatus cloud (mamma is the Latin for ‘breast’) and you can find her hanging out in the company of any one of a number of clouds. She is at her most impressive, however, when she is wed to the mighty cumulonimbus thundercloud.

Mammatus can form on the underside of the enormous anvil that often spreads out at the top of a cumulonimbus. They appear when the top of the anvil cools by losing some of its heat into the atmosphere above. Parts of it sink into warmer, moister air below, which forms the cloud droplets that make up the mammatus.

When they are plump and full, like the buxom lass above, mammatus tell you that there is a major thunderstorm nearby – one that is big enough to send most people running for mummy.

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