“I’ve never seen anything like this, and in such perfect symmetry.” That’s what photographer Brad Peterson says he was thinking when he snapped this picture of extraordinary Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds from Utah’s Snowbasin Resort on Dec. 10.
These stunning clouds that resemble waves on the ocean. They form in an atmosphere characterized by strong winds that vary in speed as you go up in the atmosphere, known as “wind shear.” The phenomenon that creates the clouds is known to meteorologists as Kelvin-Helmholtz instability — hence the cloud name. They are especially common in mountainous environments where the interaction between the strong winds and terrain can help form these incredible cloud formations.
Peterson caught this photo while riding the Needles Gondola up to the top of the mountain at Snowbasin. A ride that normally takes just 10 or 15 minutes took much longer this day due to strong winds. Battling a rocking gondola, cables and smudged windows, Peterson was still able to snap a few jaw-dropping images of the fleeting cloud types before they disappeared.
Snowbasin Resort is over 9,300 feet at its highest elevation. Peterson’s uniquely high vantage point allows us to marvel at yet another, separate cloud type known as undercast. Undercast simply means you’re viewing overcast skies, or a layer of stratus clouds, from above
Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds also share an uncanny likeness with an iconic work of art.
“If you have seen Van Gogh’s masterpiece Starry Night, he seemed to be aware of KH wave clouds too,” wrote Marshall Shepherd, director of the University of Georgia atmospheric science program, on Forbes.com. This acts as a great reminder and beautiful example for how art often imitates nature.
Aristotle agreed, “Art takes nature as its model.”
Weather is awesome. #cwgpicoftheweek