Nicole Broadbent said it felt like “standing inside of a snow globe.”
The Huntsville resident was out for a walk when she spotted an unusual cloud formation from her backyard. The cloud formed a wide arch that only partially obscured the sun, making it glow from behind. With snow-covered trees in front it does, indeed, look like a real-life snow globe.
“This sort of formation, which would be known as Altocumulus, can form at a weather front,” said Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the U.K.-based Cloud Appreciation Society. “It demarcates a particularly discreet boundary between moister and drier air masses.”
He added that the edge between the cloudy and clear sky would generally be a straighter line across the sky, but can appear curved from a ground-level perspective.
Altocumulus clouds are found in the middle layer of the troposphere, which is the part of Earth’s atmosphere closest to the ground. They are one of 10 main cloud types (the others are: Altostratus, Cirrocumulus, Cirrostratus, Cirrus, Cumulonimbus, Cumulus, Nimbostratus, Stratocumulus, and Stratus) and are one of the most diverse and dynamic in terms of appearance.
Pretor-Pinney said that “the dramatically distinct edge of cloud like this is not common” and that it usually appears at the rear of a weather front that is retreating away.
Here’s another view taken by Broadbent in panoramic mode, which has distorted the arch to make it appear more dramatically rounded, but clearly shows the distinct edge:
Broadbent jokes that she’s always had her head in the clouds, adding that she’s “always looked at the sky in awe. It captivates me—the stars, the clouds. All of it.”
In these pandemic times in particular, it’s a good reminder to look up more often. As the Cloud Appreciation Society states in its manifesto, “We think that they are Nature’s poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them… Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.”
Even on blue-sky days, you can enjoy clouds in the gallery of the Cloud Appreciation Society at cloudappreciationsociety.org.
What’s the most unique cloud you’ve ever seen? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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