A tidal wave of cotton filling? Some ghostly aerodynamics? A photo of mysterious cloud formations in Panama City Beach, Florida, has the weather world buzzing.
Pilot JR Hott of Panhandle Helicopters snapped the spectacular shot, which shows low-lying clouds streaming ominously over high-rise buildings standing sentinel against the Gulf of Mexico.
The retired Navy diver, who has owned Panhandle for three and a half years, said he had no idea when he snapped the photo it would demand worldwide attention from the likes of CNN.
“I took and I thought it was really cool, so I put it on Facebook,” Hott said, attributing the phenomenon to orographic lift — something usually seen with fog on mountains. “We see it a few times a year, and it can happen in a minute.”
According to the Weather Channel’s Dr. Greg Forbes, it’s just a matter of, well, weather.
“The relative humidity must have been very high just offshore, almost ready for fog to form anyway,” said Dr. Forbes. “Because the clouds form so low down, and then they really get thick, almost obscuring the high-rises.
“The other thing that’s happening is with friction, the air slows down as it just begins to move onshore. That gives it a little extra convergence and an upward forcing of the air to rise. But it must be that relative humidity needing to be just right that…explains why we don’t see this kind of a picture every day.”