One day last week, John MacDonald wrote to ask about something quite curious in the sky over Windsor, N.S. MacDonald had just parked his car when he happened to look up and saw clouds that he thought should have a name. He was right on the money when he said they looked like jellyfish.
I have seen photos of these so called “jellyfish” clouds before, but none were local. I should start off by saying that the jellyfish cloud is not an official cloud type, but it is a very good description! The solid part at the top of the cloud looks like it could be the body of the jellyfish, while the wispy portion extending vertically toward the ground resembles its tentacles.
Virga makes up the tentacles that extend toward the ground from the altocumulus cloud. Virga is a meteorological term that refers to precipitation that evaporates in drier air before reaching the ground. This creates the wispy cloud trail, which extends from the main cloud. The cloud disappears when the evaporation is complete.
Jellyfish clouds develop during fair weather days when there is enough moisture in the air to produce clouds but not enough for them to grow large enough to produce rain.
I have a certain fondness for them because they look like little umbrellas!
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.