A bizarre sheet of clouds embraced the highest peak in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming last week, enchanting even the park's most seasoned visitors.
The clouds looked like a billowing handkerchief or an ocean’s wave crashing into the mountain. The clouds were so strange they even surprised park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.
"I've lived here for almost 40 years, and honestly, I've never seen something last that long and take so many different shapes," Skaggs told Live Science. [See photos of the craziest-looking clouds]
Skaggs first spotted the clouds on her morning drive to work. "I watched it the whole drive up and then stood there for about 20 minutes before coming into the building because I couldn't leave it," Skaggs said.
In the late morning, Skaggs was once again pulled from work to watch the majestic clouds. But this time, she grabbed a camera and snapped the above photo of their unique shape. The clouds finally dissipated in the afternoon, she said.
Chris Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, thinks the formations are lenticular clouds. These clouds form when waves of moist, fast-moving air run into the surface of a mountain. The mountain’s jagged topography forces the air upward, which cools and condenses the air, transforming it into a cloud.
They can look like one large, lens-shaped cloud (often mistaken for a UFO); stacks of pancakes atop one another; or an undulating wave, like the one last week.
"These mountains definitely have a magical, spiritual aura about them,” Skaggs said. Their jagged peaks rise as high as 13,775 feet (4,200 meters) above sea level. But without any foothills to obstruct the view, they stand mighty and tall. The Teton Range is part of the Rocky Mountains, which stretch more than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) across western North America, from British Columbia, Canada, to New Mexico.