With Christmas passed and the end of the decade rapidly approaching, Mount Shasta decided to give us a final (probably, but one never knows what the next couple days will bring!) meteorological spectacle. My family celebrated Christmas a bit differently this year, being down in Sonoma County with my wife’s family until Christmas Eve, coming home on Christmas Day and then celebrating Christmas at home on the 27th. This meant that when the lenticulars first manifested it felt like a giant Christmas gift in the sky; it seemed like a Mount Shasta version of the star that guided the wise men. I did manage to slip out in the afternoon and capture some images of it as the sun set, but this only set the stage for an even more amazing sunrise…
There was a lot going on with this particular lenticular formation. There was a small, classic disk over the summit, waves fluctuating through the saddle between Shasta and Shastina and a larger disk-like formation extending off to the north. The light on the mountain was mottled because of clouds to the west. Parts were still lit up with alpenglow and it was a beautiful sight.
Adding to the stunning scene was a large free-floating cloud hovering southwest of Mount Shasta. This cloud was far more turbulent than the ones on Mount Shasta and was constantly changing shape. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get it into the same frame as the mountain in a pleasing way. I would have had to swing around to the northeast to achieve that and I was out of time, since the sun was setting.
Even without the second cloud, there was still a lot of drama on the mountain. It was obvious the conditions were harsh up there. For a while, it even seemed like the small disk over the summit was producing a karmen street vortex, as the waves seemed to spiral off the main disk. All-in-all, it was a great show, but the morning would surpass it.
My sense was that this lenticular was more stable than most and might last through the night, setting the conditions for a terrific sunrise. When I got up my intuition was confirmed and the clouds were aligned for a memorable event. A large lenticular crowned the mountain and the free-floating stack was in excellent form. Surprisingly, the color was strong well before the sunrise, though it was obvious that this was nowhere near as bright as it would be at sunrise. Unfortunately, I grew worried as the light faded until there was almost none left. I did not give up hope, thinking a cloud might have momentarily blocked the sun as it was approaching the horizon. This proved to be the case, as the entire scene suddenly exploded with bright light.
It was a magnificent performance. I kept thinking “gloria in excelsis deo!” as the color intensified above me.
This sunrise produced something I had not seen before. The large, free-floating lenticular cast a large shadow on the clouds behind it. The entire sky was lit up except for the large dark corner that was blotted out by the stack of disks. It was an odd and fascinating occurrence, adding a unique aspect to the stunning panorama.
Though the eyes was naturally drawn to the colorful sky, the lenticular on Mount Shasta was still an interesting specimen. From the west, it did not look like much but as is often the case, the disks extended out to the east, giving the cloud a lot more definition.
Even in the sunrise’s shadow, it was obvious that there was a lot of drama in this cloud. It was absolutely beautiful.
The highlight came as the light began to fade. The thing layer of clouds that had lit up so brightly disappeared, leaving the two lenticulars as the primary clouds. The wind picked up and began blowing a layer of cloud off of the mountain. Everything lit up bright orange.
It almost looked like lava was flowing down the side of Mount Shasta.
During the day, the size of the clouds diminished but they remained over the mountain nonetheless.
Where the morning had been overwhelming, now the beauty was in the details and the delicate dance that went on over the mountain.
The form of the wave between Shasta and Shastina was constantly flowing and changing. It was a nice coda to the morning.
Later in the day the clouds began growing again. Once again, the cloud did not look like much from the west but the layers extended off to the northeast.
The free-floating clouds were still present but not particularly interesting. Still, they added to the show in the sky and filled the day with anticipation of another great sunset.
Unfortunately, the great sunset did not happen. The sky grew overcast and the color never showed up. The clouds persisted but without the alpenglow, it was not much of an event.
Now the clouds have come to bring us a little more snow. The forecast calls for 1-3 inches, which will be a nice dusting. The entire show lasted for two full days. It really was a belated Christmas gift to be able to celebrate while enjoying views of the awesome spectacle in the sky.