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.