In fact, cloud formation isn’t a miracle – it’s a byproduct of Levantine winds and extreme landscapes.
The moist surface air is pushed upward by the sudden rise in the terrain and ascends to an altitude where the temperature is cooler than the point of condensation of the surface air. This means that the air reaches the point of saturation and the moisture inside it condenses and forms a cloud.
Some on the peninsula began to see animal shapes in the unusual cloud, which can only form when the Levantine winds blow. According to the UK Royal Meteorological SocietyWinds can blow at any time of the year but are most common from June through October.
The Levanter cloud is a special subset of a more common type of cloud – orographic clouds, which means clouds formed by the Earth’s topography. Within this type of orographic clouds, there are several types of clouds, namely Banneric clouds and Lenticular clouds.
Levanter is best classified as a type of banner cloud, a cloud that forms from the top of isolated steep mountaintops when the winds are strong. The Rock of Gibraltar is an ideal place for these clouds to form, but such clouds can also be seen on peaks like Mount Everest in the Himalayas and Matterhorn in the Alps.
Lenticular clouds are one of the strangest things in nature. Shaped like a lens – or a flying saucer – these rare clouds can be spotted near or above the mountains themselves, in which case they are known as the “cover” cloud.
Lenticular clouds form when moist air is pushed up a mountaintop and cools to saturation, at which point it condenses into a cloud. Unlike streamer clouds that stream across the sky, lenticular clouds acquire their unique shape when moist air after climbing a mountain sinks and dries up, leaving a smaller saucer-shaped cloud.
The Orographic Lift can also create unique microclimates on and around the mountains. On the leeward side of large mountains, where the rising moist air condenses into thick clouds, much rain and snow can fall, keeping the leeward side lush and green. However, the residual air that makes it up the mountain towards the leeward side is then without most of its moisture, leaving the leeward side of the mountains very high and dry.
Dry climates tend to form on the side of the mountains, which host popular dry locations such as California’s Death Valley and Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Matthew Capchey contributed to this report.
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