Incredible Rare Lenticular Cloud Over Volcano Shortlisted For Photography Award

The otherworldly spectacle is just one among a stunning shortlist for Weather Photographer of the Year.

Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

Editor and Staff Writer

lenticular cloud lit from within by lava from the volcano it surrounds

A Perfect Cloud, capturing a lenticular cloud forming around the Villarrica volcano in Pucón, Chile.

Image credit: Francisco Negroni/Weather Photographer of the Year

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.

snowy scene showing Fichtelberg weather station
Fichtelberg Mountain.
Image credit: Christoph Schaarschmidt/Weather Photographer of the Year

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.

multicolored stratospheric cloud over silhouetted pine trees
Polar Stratospheric Cloud.
Image credit: Tania Engbo Dyck-Madsen/Weather Photographer of the Year

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.

View over snowy Welsh village with mist and pink sky
Once Upon a December Evening captures a misty landscape in the Northern Clwydian Hills of North Wales.
Image credit: Caitlin Jones-Fullerton/Weather Photographer of the Year
image of clouds falling over forested mountain landscape
Cloud Sea Over Mountain, an early morning capture during the monsoon season in Hpa-An, Kayin State, Myanmar.
Image credit: Kyaw Kyaw Winn/Weather Photographer of the Year
bird sitting on stem of plant in foreground with fire in background
Fire in Man-Made Jungle, according to its photographer, "serves as a powerful reminder to implement sustainable practices and safety measures to prevent further destruction and ensure a harmonious coexistence between nature and urban development."
Image credit: Mahmudul Hasan/Weather Photographer of the Year

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.

aerial view of forest fire boundary
Forest Fire Boundary was captured using a drone, revealing a forest in Bac Giang province, Vietnam, split in two by a line of flames.
Image credit: Tran Tuan/Weather Photographer of the Year

“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.”

dog in flooded street
In Waterlogged, we see a dog struggling in the flooded streets of Kolkata, India, after the Hooghly River broke its banks in June 2021.
Image credit: Sudipta Chatterjee
aerial shot of flooding
Worst Flooding displays the devastating impact of flooding in Bangladesh in 2022. Bangladesh is at particular risk of flooding from both heavy rains and rising sea levels.
Image credit: Azim Khan Ronnie/Weather Photographer of the Year
black and white photo of child's legs being carried as adult runs along rainy street
Flight in the Storm captures the need for urban areas to contend with increasingly more extreme weather events in the wake of climate change.
Image credit: Daniela Solera Meneses/Weather Photographer of the Year

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.


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