Bubbly, ‘mammatus’ clouds explained

Those peculiar clouds you’ve seen around town aren’t a rare phenomenon, mammatus clouds are common around storms.

Mammatus clouds observed in San Antonio on June 19, 2023 (2023 KSAT)

When it comes to cool cloud formations, mammatus clouds rank high.

They’re a favorite with KSAT Connect users who sometimes call them bubble clouds or cotton ball clouds. They were actually named for something else. Mammatus derives from the Latin word “mamma” which means udder or breast.

How are mammatus clouds formed?

Mammatus clouds can be easily identified as cloud pockets appearing to hang downwards. This occurs when pockets of cold air begin to descend toward the surface. As the cold air descends into warmer air, it reaches a point where the available water vapor condenses and makes a bubbly shape.

Mammatus clouds!

San Antonio

What mammatus clouds mean

Mammatus clouds look ominous, but they mean no harm. They can often be found on the undersides of storms hanging from the anvil of cumulonimbus clouds. Mammatus are a reminder of the spectacular things our atmosphere is capable of producing.

Cumulonimbus cloud with mammatus located under anvil. (2023 KSAT)

See more photos from KSAT Connect

Taylor Mcclelland

Some Mammatus clouds reflecting off woodlawn lake this evening.

San Antonio
The Rosas

Bubble clouds!!! 😊

San Antonio
Tammie G

“Bubble Clouds”

San Antonio

About the Author

Leah Mata-Rodriguez is an intern with the KSAT Weather Authority team. She is a rising senior at Texas A&M University majoring in Meteorology. Originally from Pearsall, Leah grew up watching KSAT 12 before and after school. She always looks forward to eating food from Mexican restaurants and bakeries around San Antonio and her hometown.

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