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Jellyfish at the Rypen Clump

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Altocumulus castellanus 'Jellyfish' clouds - gliding over the Rypen Clump, South Devon, on the evening of Midsummer Solstice 2017. These clouds take their technical name from their resemblance to the turrets of castles and are often a warning of *thunderstorms.

These are formed when a layer of moist air is trapped between two layers of drier air.

This particular 'swarm' of Jellyfish occurred at the end of a multi-day heatwave. Whilst the surface of the earth was being heated by solar radiation, it in turn heated the air above it. This air rises (convection).
Rising air, if there is moisture present, creates visible cloud particles and corresponding clouds.

The atmosphere, though, is made up of layers. In the case of Altocumulus Castelanus, there is relatively dry air at the surface and relatively dry air aloft. In the middle, though, there's just enough moisture to produce a cloud.

Essentially, the cloud vaporizes at this height of the atmosphere, thereby stunting the cloud's growth and producing the "dome" portion of the jellyfish cloud.

At the same time, water droplets within the cloud are becoming too heavy to remain suspended in the air. As gravity pulls the water droplets toward the ground, they encounter yet another layer of dry air and evaporate before they can strike the surface of the earth. This phenomenon, known as virga, produces the tendril-like streaks in the sky below the altocumulus dome.

* Many violent thunderstorms occurred across the UK, The North Sea into Belgium, Netherlands, Germany & Czech Republic over the following 24hrs after this photograph was made.
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