It was a beautiful morning in Mount Shasta on February 12, 2020, when a rare lenticular cloud appeared over the mountain. Lenticular clouds are far from rare to see around the mountain, but this one was special and photos of the event went massively viral. We like to call it the Alien Sunrise.
On that beautiful morning, the Shasta Trinity National Forest shared the photo that would go on to be seen by millions of people around the world:
We were the first to jump on the story (as with most lenticular clouds over Mount Shasta), only to be followed by numerous national media outlets. In fact, the photo inspired the Washington Post to publish an article about the clouds over Shasta. The popular national publication explained to the nation how Shasta has become one of the premiere destinations in the world for breathtaking cloud formations.
“Flying saucerlike apparitions are no stranger to the skies in Weed, a city of roughly 3,000 people in Siskiyou County in northern California,” read the article. “Nestled just west of Mount Shasta, the community offers stunning views of the Golden State’s fifth-highest peak. In addition to its beauty, the 14,179-foot volcanic mountain has become adept at one other thing: producing lenticular clouds.”
The article went on to explain the science behind lenticular clouds and how Mt. Shasta’s landscape is the perfect environment for their formation.
“Lenticular clouds form when comparatively moist air rides up a mountaintop, forced into a cooler layer of air above. If the cool-down is significantly large, the air parcel can become chilled to saturation, forming a cloud. Downwind of the mountain, the air eventually sinks lower in the atmosphere, drying out and eroding any visible cloud. As such, wind-sculpted lenticular clouds are usually local.“
Of course, we were the first to the party and found plenty of other great images of the cloud. Here are a few of our favorites:
It’s funny to think a single cloud can capture the attention of millions of people around the world. It’s just par for the course in Mount Shasta.