Rare ‘Potentially New’ Cloud Formations Photographed In Kentucky And Ohio

Ominous cloud formations have been photographed across Kentucky and Ohio. The rare sightings are what the National Weather Service is now deeming a “potentially new form of clouds” called undulatus asperatus.

The name is Latin. Undulatus refers to the “wavy” structure, and asperatus means “agitated” or “roughed,” so the name translates as “agitated waves.”

The Weather Channel picked up the sensational trending photos from social media. The images were captured during thunderstorms that formed the spectacular cloud features over the two states on Monday.

Thankfully, this week’s storms were nothing like the severe weather that passed through Kentucky last month, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.

Image after image, the clouds look more like Photoshopped works of indie art than news photos you’d find on the Weather Channel. The roiling clouds are anything but the puffy and serene white clouds of a clear day. These storm scenes feature an angry sky, gouged full of “roughed-up” and exaggerated downward arcs.

Undulatus asperatus, pictured below, were captured by by Ron Steele on Monday in Cincinnati.

Undulatus asperatus, also referred to simply as asperatus, clouds are rare, but they have been seen and documented before. Proposed as a new category of cloud in 2009, undulatus asperatus is likely to become the first cloud formation added since 1951 to the International Cloud Atlas by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva, the Weather Channel reported.

According to the Cloud Appreciation Society, undulatus asperatus was even nominated as one of Time Magazine‘s 50 best inventions of 2009.

Johannah McKinney Cheek snapped this photo of asperatus clouds over Harrodsburg, Kentucky, on Monday.

The option to give the clouds a new classification is under investigation as asperatus are very closely related to normal undulatus clouds, which tend to dissipate without a storm forming. Regular undulatus clouds are common in the Plains states of the United States, and are seen regularly during daytime thunderstorm activity.

Nicholasville, Kentucky, was the location for this early-morning shot taken on Monday.


The Royal Meteorological Society began a search in 2009 for evidence to determine whether undulatus asperatus clouds are distinct from other undulatus clouds. The RMS has been looking within the type of weather patterns where undulatus asperatus clouds appear, so as to study how they form and determine if they truly are worthy of a new classification.

The exact atmospheric conditions that would cause a formation of this sort must be isolated and studied first.

Asperatus clouds are so rare that it is difficult to pin down the right conditions in which to study them. The image below was taken over Chicago in 2011.

Meteorologist Graeme Anderson made news with his MSc student dissertation on asperatus, as per Slate.

Computer models fueled with cloud evidence led Anderson to determine that asperatus clouds are formed in the sort of conditions that produce mammatus clouds, sagging, pouchy, mammary-like clouds that form in sinking air.

In asperatus situations, Anderson believes turbulent wavy motion of air causes winds at cloud level to shear. The cloud base picks up the undulations, or waves, in the air, and they become visible to humans from the ground.

The Capital Weather Gang shared the image below, captured over Central Kentucky during Monday’s storms.

Rarely, these clouds can be observed ahead of a thunderstorm once the storm’s “gust front” has blown its way through.

Gust front?

Sometimes, just before either a single thunderstorm or line of storms, there may be a very strong gust of wind. This is the gust front.


There are steps to identifying a gust front. First, find a safe place. The National Weather Surface would recommend that you get to a protected area in any severe weather situation. If you feel a strong wind gust, don’t move a step from your safe place, but look to the skies if you can.

If you are very lucky, you may just see some rare undulatus asperatus clouds.

[Photo by Oli Scarff / Getty Images]