One of the pretty sights of nature, Mammatus clouds, only occur where cumulonimbus clouds are present. It is usually linked to the after effect of tornadoes. Image © Nebraska Dept. of Natural Resource.
Images credit Wikimedia
Mammatus, also known as mammatocumulus (meaning “mammary cloud” or “breast cloud”), is a meteorological term applied to a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud. The name mammatus, derived from the Latin mamma (meaning “udder” or “breast”), refers to a resemblance between the characteristic shape of these clouds and the breast of a woman.
Mammatus are most often associated with the anvil cloud and also severe thunderstorms. They often extend from the base of a cumulonimbus, but may also be found under altocumulus, altostratus, stratocumulus, and cirrus clouds, as well as volcanic ash clouds. In the United States, sky gazers may be most familiar with the very distinct and more common cumulonimbus mammatus. When occurring in cumulonimbus, mammatus are often indicative of a particularly strong storm or maybe even a tornadic storm. Due to the intensely sheared environment in which mammatus form, aviators are strongly cautioned to avoid cumulonimbus with mammatus.
Cumulonimbus (Cb) is a towering vertical cloud (family D2) that is very tall, dense, and involved in thunderstorms and other inclement weather. Cumulonimbus originates from Latin: Cumulus “accumulated” and nimbus “rain”. It is a result of atmospheric instability. These clouds can form alone, in clusters, or along a cold front in a squall line. They create lightning through the heart of the cloud. Cumulonimbus clouds form from cumulus clouds (namely from cumulus congestus) and can further develop into a supercell, a severe thunderstorm with special features.