People in Cape Town, South Africa, were shocked and even frightened by what they saw in the sky last weekend. From the ground, it appeared that the skies above the South African city had been overtaken by an alien armada, ABC 13 reports. Residents and visitors in that area of South Africa took to social media to share their pictures and express their fears.
While residents, the conspiracy-minded, and the superstitious initially attributed the clouds to an onslaught of alien hordes descending on South Africa like something out of District 9, the reality of the situation is that lucky skywatchers were being treated to something far less ominous, with a perfectly natural explanation. Of course, the fact that the incredible formations that appeared in the sky in South Africa can be explained doesn’t make them any less awesome for those who saw them.
So what caused the strange, menacing clouds to appear in South Africa? It all boils down to meteorology and geography. While the clouds in South Africa have been dubbed “alien clouds” by many who witnessed them first hand or saw the plethora of photos online, in truth they are called lenticular clouds.
Lenticular clouds form their distinctive circular shape with some help from flowing air and tall mountains, such as the mountain ranges in the Cape Town, South Africa, area. The result, as the air cools swiftly as it breezes above the peak of the mountain, are these spectacular lenticular clouds.
“The air is flowing, hits the mountains, rises and the cloud forms once you get past the mountain’s peak. They are pretty common and pretty cool to look at.”
While they are fairly common cloud formations, clearly they’re not that common. Particularly in the area of South Africa where they formed over the last weekend. They seemed to take the locals by surprise, something that was clearly evidenced by the overwhelming interest in and response to the towering formations.
First, we saw the “Flying City” clouds that appeared above China. To be fair, these were some pretty impressive images, but National Geographic News and other outlets were quick to rationally explain them away. Just like the lenticular clouds above South Africa.
National Geographic contributing scientists chalked the Chinese clouds up to something called a “superior mirage” or a “fata morgana.” Both of these phenomena require temperature inversion and the bending of light to create a bit of an illusion. Still, scientists aren’t 100 percent sure that the “floating city” in China was anything more than a hoax, given its level of detail. Unlike the clouds in South Africa, which scientists don’t dispute the validity of.
Just the other day, skywatchers in the United States were surprised by a slow-moving blue light that was visible up and down the West Coast and as far inland as at least Utah.
Like the official explanations for the “alien clouds” in South Africa and China’s ghost city, not everyone’s buying this one either.
[Image Courtesy of Instagram/MeetSouthAfrica]