saucer-shaped cloud

Curious Clouds: Cumulus or Camouflage?

Curious cloud formations feature in my Other Worldly series, beginning with the first novel, Alienable Rights. In particular, saucer-shaped clouds, wherein protagonist Rowan Layne quips about how they must be an alien cloaking device, a՛ la Klingon, used to camouflage UFOs.

Her CIA ex-boyfriend also jokingly tells her those clouds are the result of a government weather experiment.  Okay, but whose government?

In Feeling Alienated, there’s a crack about non-human entities being snarky when they create clouds shaped like the Starship Enterprise in order to wig out humans.

Who among us has seen such a cloud? Some perhaps thought, what if it’s hiding an alien spacecraft?

Like much in my novels, the fantastical cloud idea derives from real life, and life experience. In Alienable Rights, Rowan Layne lives, as I once did, in a small town in rural west central Nevada. The place where I saw my first UFO—not a saucer, but a red orb. That’s part of the story, too.

In that remote locale, I frequently observed saucer-shaped clouds I’ve come to learn are called lenticular, or Altocumulus lenticularis, which means “shaped like a lentil” in Latin.

Latin words and phrases, not all of them legalese, are sprinkled throughout my Other Worldly novels—a certain alien species is big on Latin too, as well as clouds. Red Orbiters refer to their planet as Cumulus for a reason.

Back to those lenticular clouds. I wasn’t surprised to learn they’re mostly developed among crests and valleys in mountainous terrain. This makes sense, because the town where I once lived was situated in a mountainous desert valley at an altitude of more than 4,000 feet.

Lenticular clouds are associated with waves in the atmosphere that form when moist air flow is forced up, over, and partway down a mountaintop.

These orographic—meaning relating to mountains, especially with regard to position—saucer-shaped clouds form when air is stable and winds blow across hills and mountains from the same or similar direction at different heights through the troposphere, normally in perpendicular alignment to wind direction.

Wind is also featured in my Other Worldly novels. Rowan hears mysterious voices wafting on winds while travelling home from Reno after first learning that aliens are among us.

The troposphere where lenticular clouds form is the lowest region of the atmosphere extending from Earth’s surface to a height of about 3.7 to 6.2 miles, which is the lower boundary of the stratosphere.

The stratosphere also receives mention in my novels, including the casino hotel Stratosphere, which Rowan Layne uses as a directional device to help her not get lost while driving after she moves to Las Vegas in Feeling Alienated.

This author also learned, while drafting that second novel of the Other Worldly series, that the name of the Vegas sky-high landmark was changed to the Strat in 2020. But neither Rowan Layne nor this gal will be visiting its observation deck due to a crippling fear of heights that’s only increased with age.

Yet neither one of us fear aliens, which is why Rowan continues to calmly walk her dog in Alienable Rights despite clouds that “seemed to grow thicker and hang lower, looming over us on the backstretch home. Resembling flying saucers stacked like a vertical runway.”

I saw those very clouds one cold winter morning. As well as this cloud in Feeling Alienated, while walking my dog in my (and Rowan’s) new North Las Vegas neighborhood, and we both had an uneasy sensation of being watched:

A large cloud resembling the giant evil-alien spaceship in the movie Independence Day dominated the sky at the end of the street. Surely not a good thing.

I braved on with Bodie obliviously sniffing and peeing on every bush, lamppost, fire hydrant and cement wall edge. Peering over my shoulder as we rounded each corner, I tried to convince myself all was fine due to no orbs, flying saucers, or cylindrical crafts.

But that cloud was huge and oddly, impossibly shaped. And it hung static in the sky, not drifting as clouds are wont to do. Creepy.

You know what’s really cool? Las Vegas has those lenticular clouds, too. I like to think of them as flying saucers, silently keeping watch, protecting us from the bad guys here on Earth.

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