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Lenticular Clouds Spotted in Southern California

Did you see them?

Some Southern California residents had a chance to see some lenticular clouds Thursday.

These clouds get their name from the Latin word "lenticularis" which means "lens-shaped." Lenticular clouds are also called "standing wave clouds" because they do not move. With enough layers in the clouds, they begin to look like flying saucers, which is why some people refer to them as "UFO clouds."

David Biggar, Shanna Mendiola
Background on lenticular clouds seen near the Cajon Pass on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.

The clouds form on the lee, or downwind, side of mountains when strong winds overhead are forced to rise over the mountain tops. As the air rises, it cools and moisture condenses into lenticular clouds.

The layers of air continue to bounce around, forming waves that can extend for hundreds of miles away from the mountain top. While lenticular clouds form at wave peaks, there will be areas with no cloud cover due to sinking air in each wave.

NASA/ David Biggar
NASA's MODIS satellite captured the image of lenticular clouds from up above on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.

Wave clouds are pretty common near the Sierra, Rockies, and Tehachapi mountains. The Tehachapi Mountains often produce long waves extending across parts of the High Desert.

Thursday’s lenticular clouds were over the Cajon Pass, just downwind of the San Gabriel Mountains (specifically Mount Baldy). Due to the location, and the height, they were visible from the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Basin, Inland Empire, and High Desert.

Some NBC4 viewers said they spotted the clouds Thursday. If you saw the clouds, you can share your photos with us here

Keith Tomas
Keith Tomas said he captured these lenticular clouds over the San Gorgonio Mountain on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.
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