Summer arrived early this year in South Florida, even though the calendar hasn’t yet given permission. Every day in June has seen above average temperatures with 17 out of 18 days being in the 90s. Not to be outdone, the humidity has kept pace with highs of 85-97% except for one glorious day of just 74%. Our usually sunny skies often give way to afternoons with high billowing cumulonimbus clouds, lightning, and rain.
One afternoon last week I found myself under the anvil of an enormous towering cloud. I found the variety painted in the skyscape before me captivating and just a bit intimidating. Lightning stroked in the distance and I could discern areas of precipitation, but what seized my attention was an area of unusual formation in the center of the massive cloud.
I later learned that these somewhat rare mammatus clouds are caused by downdrafts in the cumulonimbus storm cell. An excellent description of the phenomena can be found at this website: Mammatus Clouds: sagging pouch-like structures. Intrigued, I drove positioning myself where I could observe changes in the clouds. A fresh cooling breeze swept down on me. It was then that I discovered a group of seven or eight Swallow-tailed Kites riding the cloud’s convection currents. They looked so carefree as they swirled, too high for my lens to capture. Slowly, the margins of the anvil spread like a ring of delicate white lace. I felt privileged to observe the power and beauty of this stormy sky from the safety of my car before turning away to drive home.
Like most children, I loved to lay in the summer grass with my companions and scan the clouds, looking for identifiable shapes. “Look! An elephant and over there a cat!” On this day rather, a quiet contemplation and sense of awe occupied my thoughts as I considered the magnificence that wind and moisture sculpted above me. It would have been the perfect time for some celestial philharmonic to fill the skies with the deep chords of How Great Thou Art, but instead I enjoyed the silence of reverence and vowed to spend more time in the future looking up, instead of down.