Rare, undulating clouds enchant visitors in Grand Teton

AP News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2015 9:22 PM
Rare, undulating clouds enchant visitors in Grand Teton

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A bizarre sheet of wispy clouds undulating over the Teton Range enchanted tourists and even veteran employees of Grand Teton National Park.

Drivers stopped along the park's main highway Thursday morning to gaze in awe and shoot photos of the rare phenomenon hovering over Grand Teton mountain. At 13,770 feet above sea level, the Grand Teton is the highest point in the Teton Range.

The shape-shifting clouds at times appeared like a billowing handkerchief or seagull with its beak touching the mountain's summit, park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.

She first spotted them on her morning drive to work. "I had to make myself pay attention to the road because I was like, 'Wow, that is really strange,' " Skaggs said Friday.

The clouds persisted through the morning before finally dissipating in the afternoon.

They were lenticular clouds, a type that forms downwind of mountain ranges in certain conditions. Occasionally, lenticular clouds occur as perfectly symmetrical disks, appearing like giant flying saucers and prompting UFO reports.

These particular lenticular clouds resulted from an unusual combination of strong wind and moisture between 13,000 and 14,000 feet, said Riverton-based National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Jones, who got wind of the event from several weather spotters.

"We see these clouds get shaped both by the topography of the mountain and also the way the air will flow over the mountains," Jones said. "It was just in the right place at the right time."

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