A September lenticular cloud marks the coming of the lenticular season on Mount Shasta.
As summer ends, we can look forward to the gorgeous fall hiking season here in Mount Shasta. While the we may lament the approaching winter and the passing of this year’s gorgeous summer (despite the smoke), there is another thing we can look forward with a great deal of anticipation. Fall marks the beginning of the time of year when lenticular clouds occur with a notably higher degree of frequency on Mount Shasta. This means that, while we may not be able to hike the trails in the Trinity Divide, high up on Mount Shasta, or in the surrounding mountain ranges like the Trinity Alps, we do have the opportunity to enjoy the grand spectacle of these magnificent cloud formations heightening the mountain’s unique grandeur. Indeed, uniqueness and beauty of these strange clouds makes this one of the highlights of the year.
As is often noted, the mountain creates its own weather and it can do so at any time of the year. Naturally this means lenticular clouds can occur throughout the year as well. However, fall and winter have a demonstrably higher frequency of the clouds’ manifestation. To show this, I collated all the images I have from the last 10 years and broke them out into the months when they occurred. Some of the clouds are exactly lenticular clouds, but they are unusual in shape and exhibit at least some of the qualities of the famed formations. Obviously this is not exactly scientific documentation since I have missed some of the clouds. Nonetheless, generally speaking, if there is a lenticular I try to capture it in some fashion. Taking the fact that I have missed some of the clouds, this display still demonstrates what months have greater likelihood of lenticular clouds appearing around Mount Shasta. Hopefully the upcoming lenticular season produces some exceptional specimens!
Sunrise lenticulars galore!
It was really hot over the weekend but beginning Tuesday, the temperatures have been dropping and the changing weather seems to have flushed the smoke right out. This morning was particularly nice, since there was no haze and Mount Shasta was graced with some fine lenticulars! I noticed them a little too late to really maximize the light, but I was able to get out to somewhere where I could capture them.
Mount Shasta had a nice lens-shaped disk catching the morning light. While the shape of the cloud was not really unusual (though still quite beautiful), it was on this morning notable, since the sun, still low in the sky, was casting a shadow on the lenticular, just above Mount Shasta’s summit. That was a phenomenon I haven’t seen before from this angle and it was really neat to observe. To the northwest of the mountain was a large collection of turbulent clouds. They changed their shape pretty rapidly, but held to the general pattern of a large disk situated above a swirl of changing clouds. This too was a grand sight, though it would probably be better further to the south. Nonetheless, I was grateful to be able to witness it. All in all, a pretty spectacular morning, especially given how quickly it has come on the heels of a month of oppressive smoke.
I don’t want to jinx us (I probably am for saying this) but this morning at least it feels like we have turned a corner. Cooler temps are in the forecast, autumn approaches and, Lord willing, we will be rid of the smoke for the rest of the year. I am still a bit downtrodden about what is going on in the Columbia River Gorge, but hopefully the worst is past in that fire and the healing can begin. Hopefully there will be more mornings like this one in the near future!
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Mount Eddy beneath clear skies and lovely clouds.
A large lenticular cluster.
The grand sunrise scene.
A complex lenticular formation swirls around Mount Shasta.
This evening saw one of the more impressive lenticular displays I have seen on Mount Shasta in a while. Anyone who has followed this site for a while knows that I am a bit of a lenticular junkie. I think the thing about them that really appeals to me is their unpredictability and unusually spectacular appearance. Many mountains are beautiful in their own right, as is Mount Shasta, but few are embellished so frequently by such surreal and magnificent shapes.
After skiing all day with our oldest son, my wife alerted me to the cloud’s presence this afternoon. When they got home, I took off and headed north to evaluate the cloud and determine what angle would be the best one from which to observe and photograph it. The angle of the ancillary clouds made continuing north the thing to do so I headed up into the Shasta Valley and parked at one of my favorite spots to watch the show. I had Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers playing on the radio as I stood out in the wind next to my tripod, watching the clouds roil, churn and change. The lenticulars directly over the mountain remained fairly constant but the formations above and to the sides were in constant flux. As the sun set, the whole display lite up. I was reminded how fortunate one is to be living in Jefferson.
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Apparently Mount Shasta wasn’t done putting on a show and continued the epic lenticular display through this morning. The light was not as good but the show was still an incredible sight. I had my three kids for the morning while my wife was at work so I took them down to Lake Siskiyou and let them play while I tried to get some shots of the mountain. Fortunately, despite the obscured light, the lake was still and the reflection was decent. It’s good fortune that such a beautiful spot can be reached so easily.
Tumultuous lenticular clouds form above a cloud-shrouded Mount Shasta.
The first few days of February have proven to be stormy around Mount Shasta. Fortunately, the stormy canopy above the southern end of the Shasta Valley broke open at sunset on Saturday and offered a glimpse of an incredible array of lenticular clouds that had formed over Mount Shasta and the nearby Whaleback. While Mount Shasta itself was obscured by clouds, the aerial display was nonetheless spectacular. Dark clouds still covered the rest of the Shasta Valley and the surrounding mountains but the one opening in the storm proved to be ideal, contrasting the black clouds with the towering, glowing lenticulars. It is not often that the Whaleback takes center stage over Mount Shasta, but with the great mountain lost in the storm, the broad-shouldered Whaleback was the most obvious, visible landmark. Crowned by swirling, illuminated clouds, it was a stunning sight. If it were necessary to confirm that, yes, Mount Shasta was indeed there behind the lenticular tower, the North Gate Plugs, a collection of volcanic domes on Mount Shasta’s northeast flank, were visible. It was a fortuitous parting of the storm that revealed this amazing spectacle and leads one to wonder just how many other marvels are hidden away by low storm clouds.
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The autumn of 2015 has generally been lovely and pleasant in Mount Shasta. A few mild storm systems punctuated typically sunny weather. Though it got colder as the year plunged deeper into fall, working and playing outside remained desirable activities. However, after the long drought, there has been a growing anticipation of the coming winter and the hope of snow has been on everyone’s lips. The week prior to November 14th maintained forecasted the coming of snowy weather. Though the amount of snow was eventually downgraded in the forecast, the storm remained eminent.
The 14th dawned with a few lens-shaped clouds hovered near Mount Shasta. It was quickly obvious that the clouds were growing and that a ferocious changing of weather systems was afoot. I set out for one of my go-to perches and watched the clouds swirl around the mountain for about 45 minutes before I had to head home. On my way back home, I stopped by the south shore of Lake Siskiyou and enjoyed the marvelous view from the edge of the water. For those who have not been here, it is a moral imperative that you do.
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The rest of the day was spent working on a bunk bed for my kids. The mitre saw was set up in front of the house and I could watch the clouds while I worked. Around midday the wind really picked up, making it obvious that the weather was changing even more vigorously. To the north, I could see new, large clouds developing. Though not traditional lenticulars, it was obvious they were related to the ones that had formed on Mount Shasta. In the afternoon, I had to go get some more lumber for the bed. That process took longer than expected I had to abort my plans to hike to a location to catch the sunset on the mountain and its array of incredible clouds. I had to settle for a place I could shoot right off the road. Fortunately, I was near another one of my go-to-in-a-pinch spots. I pulled over, set up the camera and watched the amazing spectacle in the sky.
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It was a fantastic show. The vigor of the storm never matched the clouds that heralded it but we did get a couple of inches of snow at my house. What a great start to a snowy winter. Keep praying that it is so!
One of the pleasures of living near Mount Shasta is the opportunity to observe the lenticular clouds that often form around the mountain. Mount Shasta is so massive, high and solitary it disrupts the air currents that flow around it and frequently develops large, oddly shaped clouds. Sometimes they appear on or above the mountain while other times they orbit nearby the great volcano. These formations form near other prominent mountains but Mount Shasta is particularly noted for the frequency and size with which they appear. The clouds enhance what is an already amazing spectacle by adding unusual forms to the mountain’s appearance. Any time one is fortunate enough to capture the mountain with a lenticular, it is an exciting opportunity. Conversely, any time a one develops and circumstances prevent going to a good point to observe the mountain and its clouds it is supremely frustrating.
The following is a gallery of some of the more interesting lenticular clouds I have encountered around Mount Shasta.
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