The skies over Santa Fe are a never-ending display of light, color, and atmospheric antics. Today, on the first full day of Spring, a flotilla of lenticular clouds has anchored itself over the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, glowing under a bright blue ocean of air.
Sometimes called lenticularis, these disc-shaped clouds take their name from Latin, for a lentil. I call them wind clouds, since they form as a current of moist air ripples over the lee side of the mountain ridge, rising and falling in standing waves. Moisture condenses in the crest of each wave, in smooth, strikingly-white lenses of cloud that hover gracefully over the peaks. In spite of the commotion up above, these clouds seem to be connected with fair weather, like today’s beautiful Spring day.
These clouds are common over Santa Fe’s backdrop of mountains. Here’s a picture, taken at sunset, in nearly the same direction, last year:
One of the most famous photographs taken by the photographer Ansel Adams captures these clouds, forming a halo over the snowy peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains far beyond the village of Hernandez, New Mexico, north and west of us.