Per­fect Storm

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Snapshot - PHOTO: SAN­TI­AGO BORJA LOPEZ

Fas­ten your seat belts, it’s go­ing to be a bumpy ride. Pho­tog­ra­pher San­ti­ago Borja, a pi­lot based in Ecuador, snapped this shot of a colossal cu­mu­lonim­bus cloud from an alti­tude of over 11,000 me­tres, while fly­ing across the Pa­cific Ocean.

Known as the ‘King of Clouds’, these huge for­ma­tions are the only type of cloud to pro­duce thun­der, light­ning and hail.

“Fu­elled by strong as­cend­ing mo­tion, parcels of moist air bar­rel up­wards through the at­mos­phere form­ing deep cloud tow­ers that can reach heights of 12 kilo­me­tres,” says Amanda May­cock, a cli­ma­tol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Leeds. “Even­tu­ally, the air reaches a layer with rapid changes in tem­per­a­ture. This acts like a lid pre­vent­ing fur­ther as­cent and causes the cloud tops to spread out into an anvil, which can be seen in this im­age.”

Cu­mu­lonim­bus cloud cells are as­so­ci­ated with bliz­zards, tor­ren­tial rain, and most com­monly, trop­i­cal storms. So if you’re fly­ing through one, you can ex­pect a bit of tur­bu­lence.

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