Mammatus Clouds: Causes and Threats

These clouds resemble the udder of a crow and this is why these clouds have been named Mammatus clouds. The word Mammatus is derived from Latin language and it means udder. These clouds follow a cellular pattern and the term Mammatus is basically a metrological term. There are various similarities between Mammatus clouds and Anvil Clouds. These clouds are usually found under Cirrus clouds and there are possibilities of finding these clouds under several other clouds like Altocumulus, Stratocumulus etc. This speech will throw light upon Mammatus Clouds and their origin. A comprehensive analysis of every minute detail pertaining to these clouds will be provided in this speech.

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Mammatus clouds have been time and again spotted in the US and the regions in the vicinity of the country. It is strongly believed that whenever these clouds appear in the sky, a very heavy storm follows very shortly. These clouds are indicators of heavy storm. These clouds are also believed to cause tornadic storm. These clouds are usually seen in the sky in warm months and they appear in particular regions of the country like the mid west and the eastern portion of the country. The west and the South west are less vulnerable when it comes to the occurrence of these clouds in the sky. These clouds pose a great threat to the aircrafts in the sky; several aviators have witnessed unprecedented problems because of these clouds. These clouds are usually semitransparent and appear smooth. These clouds are made up of lobes and can spread up to several hundred kilometers. The clouds are majorly made up of ice and other liquid content. It is believed that a large range of Mammatus clouds exist in the atmosphere and it is also believed that each cloud has its own distinct attributes. These clouds have been poorly interpreted and there is meager information available about these clouds and the same results in the poor interpretation of these clouds.

These clouds do not pose meteorological threat to the society but these clouds are a major threat to the aviators flying aircrafts in the sky. “Mammatus clouds often form on the underside of cumulonimbus clouds, but are sometimes seen underneath other clouds as well. They can appear threatening, but the sinking air required to make these clouds actually indicates weakening of the storm associated with them. While mammatus clouds usually form beneath weakening thunderstorms, the kinds of thunderstorms that have them at one time contained intense updrafts, which indicates conditions in the area were, and might still be, favorable for severe weather. Mammatus are pouch-like clouds that protrude down from the bottom of a thunderstorm’s anvil cloud. The storm’s anvil consists of ice crystals but, as it spreads out at the top of a thunderstorm, some of the ice begins falling and cools the clear air below.” (The True Meaning of Mammatus Clouds, 2009).

The sinking of moist air into dry air is supposed to be the cause of Mammatus clouds. These clouds have a very distinct boundary; their edges are particularly sharp and resemble the formation of Anvil. These clouds are also known as Breast Clouds and this is because they resemble the shape of the breast. The color of these clouds is usually grayish but it becomes golden or reddish because of the illumination from of the setting sun. These clouds usually last for a very short period of time but they also have the ability to last in the sky for hours together. The tornadoes that occurred in the year 1950 and 1960 are believed to be because of these clouds. There is a lot of enigma that has always surrounded these clouds, very little is known about these clouds and there are several misconceptions related to these clouds. A few quantitative studies have been performed on these clouds and as a result of which we know very little about these clouds. Some believe that these clouds are very big factors that lead to tornadoes but some believe that these clouds are the by products of tornadoes, hence these clouds have been an issue of debate. Whatever little research has been done on these clouds has been largely done by visual observation, aircraft penetration and by other less reliable methods. Lidar and radars have also been used in conducting research on these clouds.


The true Meaning of Mammatus Clouds. In USA Today. 2009. Web.

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