Beauty After the Storms: Social Media Lights Up With Shots of Mammatus Clouds Glowing In the Setting Sun

Pam Wright
Published: May 19, 2017

While this week brought a rash of deadly storms and tornadoes in the Plains and Midwest, Mother Nature also offered up a display of beauty in the wake of these devastating storms.

Social media was chock full of scenes of devastation, along with dramatic shots of tornadoes touching down from Texas to Iowa. However, there were also breathtaking shots of mammatus clouds that often accompany thunderstorms. The timing of the shots assured a beautiful sunset in many areas. 

Mammatus clouds captured at sunset in Anadarko, Oklahoma.
(Lamontt Bear/Facebook)

Words like "unusual," "distinct" and "beautiful" commonly describe mammatus clouds, which are the round structures that appear to be bulging from the underside of a larger cloud.

They're a fascinating type of cloud, as they form in air that sinks instead of rises. The sinking air must be colder than the surrounding air and have high liquid water or ice content.

Mammatus clouds are defined as hanging protrusions, like pouches, on the undersurface of a cloud. They often occur on the edges and sloping underside of cumulonimbus and have been observed on both the upshear and downshear sided of a thunderstorm's outflow anvil and typically last around 10 minutes. However, they can also occur with altostratus, altocumulus, stratocumulus clouds and cirrus clouds.

Mammatus clouds are frequently associated with severe weather, but they don't produce severe weather themselves.

Here are a few that caught our eye:

MORE: Tornadoes Flatten Homes and Structures in Wisconsin, Oklahoma

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

Featured Blogs

Meteorology of Saturday's Colombian Flood Disaster That Killed 254

By Dr. Jeff Masters
April 3, 2017

At least 254 people were killed in the in the city of Mocoa (population 40,000) in southwest Colombia near the border of Ecuador early Saturday, when torrential rains triggered a debris flow on a nearby mountain that surged into the town as a huge wall of water carrying tons of mud and debris. The disaster is the fourth deadliest weather-related disaster in Colombia’s recorded history.

Iconic American Destination Virtually Isolated for Rest of Year

By Christopher C. Burt
March 24, 2017

Half of the village of Big Sur, on the coast of central California, has lost its only access to the north following the demolition of the flood-damaged Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge along State Route 1 (also Rt. 1 or SR 1) on March 19. Although Rt. 1 to the south of Big Sur has reopened to traffic (after mud and rock slides were cleared) it is a long 70-mile journey along the windy but spectacular highway to Cambria, the next town of any significance where supplies can be had. CalTrans (California Department of Transportation) estimates it will take 6-9 months to rebuild a new bridge over the canyon.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.