This incredible shot of a UFO-like lenticular cloud atop one of Chile’s most active volcanoes is among those shortlisted for this year’s Weather Photographer of the Year competition.
Photographer Francisco Negroni titled his piece A Perfect Cloud, and we can see why. Lenticular clouds are a rare and striking phenomenon, arising when moist air flows over an obstacle like a mountain – in this case, the Villarrica volcano.
Under the right conditions, standing waves form on the obstacle’s downwind side, just like ripples in water. If the temperature at the crest of these waves drops low enough, the moisture in the air can condense and form these flying saucer clouds.
In fact, it’s often said that lenticular clouds are behind many reported sightings of UFOs.
Negroni’s beautiful image, in which the very rotation of our planet is also captured in the streaking stars beyond the mountain, is just one of the shots shortlisted for the 2023 award.
Christoph Schaarschmidt caught this view of what he described as “incredible ice sculptures” on an unusually clear day on Fichtelberg Mountain, Germany.
“It was not easy to photograph this landscape because it was about -14 [°C; around 7°F], with strong winds,” Schaarschmidt said.
Back to the skies for this contender from Tania Engbo Dyck-Madsen. It’s another rare cloud formation, this time a polar stratospheric cloud, also known as a nacreous or mother-of-pearl cloud.
For Dyck-Madsen, this was a truly serendipitous shot: “This beautiful, but rare cloud appeared in the sky while I was on holiday in Norway, and luckily I had my camera and tripod with me, so I could capture this amazing scene.”
The astonishing colors in these clouds come from particles within them that scatter light, causing interference patterns. It’s uncommon to see weather events in the stratosphere compared with the lower troposphere, which makes this image even more special.
All the above images were submitted to the main category of the competition, but the array of talent on display in the mobile category demonstrates to any budding photographer that you can get started with just the smartphone in your pocket.
The competition, now in its eighth year, is run by the Royal Meteorological Society in conjunction with Standard Chartered, and aims not only to showcase the spectacular weather our planet has to offer, but also to raise awareness of the impacts of our rapidly changing climate.
“In my eighth year of judging the Weather Photographer of the Year competition, the entrants never fail to astonish me,” said Professor Liz Bentley, Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, in a statement. “This year’s shortlist shows the world’s weather in all its variety, beauty, power and even its capacity to devastate.”
“Images bear witness to the impact of flooding, wildfires and drought on both natural habitats and human life. We hope that this will bring attention to the increasing frequency of these events caused by climate change, and prompt swifter action.”
You can view the full shortlist and vote for your favorite by visiting the competition website. The public vote will be open until September 24, with the announcement of the winner due on October 5.