Those landing at Gibraltar International Airport on the morning of August 24, were treated to a spectacular view of a Levanter cloud billowing over the Rock of Gibraltar. A video from the Met Office of Gibraltar's Twitter account shows the cloud sweeping over the peak in beautiful time-lapse footage.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the south coast of Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is a famous monolithic limestone promontory home to Europe's only wild monkey population.
The Levanter cloud gets its name from an easterly wind that blows warm wet air across the Strait of Gibraltar. The word “levant", meaning “to raise”, refers to the rising sun and the wind coming from an easterly direction.
The cloud forms when moisture in the wind is forced upwards by the 426 meter (1,398 foot) tall rock. As the wind rises, the temperature at the top of the rock is cooler, which condenses the moisture in the wind, creating a Levanter cloud. The wind continues to blow, pushing the cloud over the peak, leading to this billowing effect. The cloud only forms when the Levant wind is blowing, which happens all year round, but is most common from June through to October.
"Levanter" is a local name for the cloud, which is technically a banner cloud and comes under the bracket of orographic clouds. All orographic clouds are shaped by the topography of the land beneath them, usually high peaks. Given their moisture content, they can give rise to large amounts of rain and snowfall on one side of a mountain while leaving the other side with a remarkably different climate. This can even affect the animals living on each side because of the rain shadow effect.