13 surreal photos of rare clouds that were taken at the perfect time

Amy Christie HunterClouds that look like ocean waves due to the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability effect.

On Tuesday evening, a Virginia woman captured a breathtaking photo of wave-like clouds. Amy Christie Hunter posted the rare cloud sighting on her Facebook page, and the photo quickly went viral, according to the Washington Post.

The clouds, which look like perfectly sculpted ocean waves, are apparently known as Kelvin-Helmholtz instability waves, according to EarthSky.org. The rare but beautiful waves can form in the sky due to velocity and density differences in the air, according to the same website.

“You’ll often see the characteristic wave structure in this type of cloud when two different layers of air in our atmosphere are moving at different speeds,” says EarthSky.org.

Here are 13 other instances of rare clouds captured at the perfect moment.


The wave clouds look even more stunning over the ocean.

The stunning Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud shapes can “crash” and disappear quickly, according to Rutgers University’s Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.


Asperitas clouds have a Van Gogh-like quality.

Dana Sibera/ FlickrAsperitas clouds.
Plains areas like Iowa are the best to spot the ominous asperitas clouds.


These clouds look like marshmallows falling from the sky.

They’re technically called mammatus clouds, and according to BBC, they’re formed upside-down due to “sinking pockets of cold, moist air.” These puffy clouds can form during, before, or after a storm, according to EarthSky.org.


Mammatus clouds form when sinking air is cooler than the surrounding air, according to EarthSky.org.

Ian Forsyth/Getty ImagesMammatus clouds.

BBC describes mammatus clouds “pouch-like protrusions.”


Mammatus clouds can also form when a thunderstorm cloud becomes turbulent.

Alan Dyer /VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesIn this photo, the sunset illuminates the unusual-looking thunderstorm cloud and mammatus effect.

This stunning image was captured by space and sky photographer Alan Dyer and is featured on NASA’s blog. The photo’s description on the NASA website points out all the incredible elements of the shot, like the moon that’s visible on the far right, and how the sunset adds a rainbow of colours to the storm cloud.


This anvil cloud — also known as a cumulonimbus cloud— could easily be mistaken for a Bob Ross painting.

DEA / V. GIANNELLA/Getty ImagesAn anvil cloud in Marche, Italy, in 2018.

The anvil cloud, technically called a cumulonimbus cloud, forms “due to vigorous rising and overturning of warm, moist, and unstable air,” according to NASA.


Lenticular clouds create unique, rounded shapes that can look like UFOs.

Lenticular clouds most commonly form over mountains, and can appear and disappear quickly, according to EarthSky.org.


Some lenticular clouds can even appear to be “stacked” like pancakes.

ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty ImagesA lenticular cloud spotted in Macedonia in 2015.

Lenticular clouds are also different from other types of clouds because they stay in one place instead of moving through the sky, according to a report from AccuWeather.


These heart-shaped clouds almost look Photoshopped.

Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesHeart clouds spotted in Romania.

According to NASA, some previous occurrences of heart-shaped clouds have been identified as lenticular clouds.


This cloud looks like a meteorite.

VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesA blimp-like cloud floats through the sky in Beijing.

We don’t know the science behind this specific cloud, but it’s breathtaking nonetheless.


This sunset shot features a phenomenon known as virga, where precipitation evaporates before reaching the Earth’s surface, making for a curtain-like effect.

Wild Horizons/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesSunset over Sonoran Desert in Tucson, Arizona.

According to BBC, virga is not its own type of cloud, but rather a “supplementary feature” that forms when rain or snow evaporates before hitting the Earth’s surface. Instances of virga are commonly seen in the desert, according to BBC.


Virga clouds can sometimes look like jellyfish.

Wild Horizon/GettyVirga clouds.

Per the BBC, “virga” means “shaft” or “branch.”


There’s also a special type of cloud that glows in the night sky.

Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty ImagesThese clouds form in the mesosphere, about 50 miles above the ground, according to the Weather Channel.

Noctilucent clouds shine in the dark night sky and can be spotted in places with high latitudes from May through August in the Northern Hemisphere, and from November through February in the Southern Hemisphere, according to EarthSky.org.

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