What are Mammatus Clouds?

Mammatus clouds, also known as breast clouds or mammatocumulus, are clouds that float with pouches at the bottom. The name ‘Mammatus’ is derived from the word ‘mamma’, which, in Latin, means breast or udder.

In the US, these clouds are commonly found where tornados are frequent. Mammatus clouds are often seen before or after a tornado. Mammatus are usually opaque or semitransparent, which makes the entire area very dark. They often cover hundreds of kms of sky, with each mammatus having diameter of 1 to 3 kms. They can either be smooth, lumpy or ragged. These lobes generally contain a mixture of ice and water. However, in areas where ice is not common, such clouds contain only water. Because there is high content of precipitation, these clouds have lumps.

However, more than showering, these precipitations in the clouds evaporate, and the clouds disappear within some time. In most cases, they are seen after a thunderstorm, and occurrence of such sight may not always mean that a thunderstorm is about to come.

In fact, these clouds are formed due to sinking of air, and if sinking takes place, it indicates that the storm is becoming weaker. However, in some cases, when these lumps contain high quantity of ice crystals, it may result in hailstorms.

However, they make a beautiful scenery. For a photographer, the panorama is ideal to depict thunderstorm sky or a monsoon sky. Several other uncommon types of clouds are observed around the world. Some of these include Lenticular cloudsNoctilucent CloudsAltocumulus Clouds, Cirrus Clouds etc.