These clouds are described as looking like a field of tennis balls or melons, or like breasts. This is the reason why it is called as “MAMMATUS”. This word comes from the Latin word “MAMMA” which means breast.
Here are some interesting facts about these clouds!
- Mammatus clouds, also known as MAMMATOCUMULUS, are usually dark and semi-transparent, creating an ominous atmosphere!
- Individual mammatocumulus can be 1 km to 3 km in diameter. Together they often cover about hundreds of kilometers of sky.
- The pouches can either be ragged or smooth!
HOW ARE THEY FORMED?
- Mammatus clouds are formed during a thunderstorm.
- During the thunderstorm there is a strong updraft, drawing water molecules up from below.
- The water condenses, up in the sky, and due to the updraft, the water still rises up.
- When it reaches the altitude of 57,000 feet, the water freezes into ice crystals and spreads out horizontally becoming a part of the anvil cloud.
- Ice crystals, that are grouped together, begin to sink, as they have a higher density than air.
- When the sinking ice crystals reach the bottom of the anvil cloud, they sink a little bit more because of the large clusters of ice. This stops creating mammatus clouds.
- Thus, mammatus clouds are formed when the cold icy air sinks from the top to the bottom of an anvil cloud!
- A common misconception is that, when mammatus clouds appear, a tornado is about to form. But mammatus clouds are harmless and do not produce severe weather!
- Actually, these clouds appear after a worst thunderstorm has passed!
- The cloud formation only signifies a weakening storm!
DID YOU KNOW?
- On average, an individual mammatus pouch lasts for about 10 minutes while the whole cluster can last from 15 minutes to about a couple of hours!
- Mammatus clouds are long lived if the sinking air contains large ice crystals. This is because, greater energy is needed for the evaporation of larger particles.
- Mammatus pouches are usually composed of ice. But some can contain nearly 100% water!
- If they contain enough ice crystals, they may cause hailstorms!
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