Lenticular Clouds: An Unusual Sight for The Pennines

Lenticular Clouds spotted in Teesdale
Lenticular clouds spotted above the North Pennines - a sight more usually associated with high mountains. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

One of the things I love about going for a walk and observing nature as I go, is that I’m never sure what I’m going to see. I’m often delighted to a see a bird of prey hunting, an unusual insect or a rare plant. Today, however, my interest was piqued by an altogether different aspect of nature.

While out for a walk, buffeted by strong south-westerlies, I noticed an uncommon cloud type high in the sky. Lenticular clouds (Altocumulus Lenticularis) are often described as lens-shaped or saucer-shaped and are more commonly associated with high mountains than the dales of northern England.

I’ve seen this type of cloud a few times before in other parts of the world and having read a few books on meteorology, I remembered that Lenticular clouds form due to standing waves. These waves with their associated clouds are created in stable, moist airflow as it passes over high-ground.

Indeed, looking west towards Cross Fell and south-west towards Tan Hill, I saw there was a large, moody-looking bank of cloud but after the airflow cleared this high-ground, the sky in its lee was fairly clear apart from the Lenticular clouds that were forming over the area I was walking within.

They are quite a strange sight and I can understand why people have mistaken them for UFOs in the past. Tonight I did a quick Google search to see how common these clouds actually are in northern England (not very it seems) and came across this gallery of photos taken in West Yorkshire just today:


Did you see these clouds today or have you seen them while out and about on previous occasions?

Let us know in the comments.

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Paul Kirtley is Founder and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog. He is the author of Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft, as well as having contributed to several other books. Paul has been involved in teaching bushcraft since 2003. He is also a Canoe Leader, British Canoeing Level 3 Canoe Coach and UK Summer Mountain Leader.

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6 Responses

  1. Austin Lill
    | Reply

    Lenticular clouds? Have to hold my hand up and say that I’ve never heard of them. The more you learn, the more you realise you have to learn! Great pic BTW.

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Thanks Austin. I don’t think you ever stop learning. 🙂

  2. Alex Barrett
    | Reply

    I had been meaning to look these cloud formations up a couple of weeks ago, having seen the phenomena up here in the far north of Scotland for the first time (for me anyway), near the coast too, not in the mountains.

    An interesting stumble here, which makes me wonder if it indicates anything about climate or weather patterns. I shall try to remember to investigate further. Thanks for reminding me.

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi Alex

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad I was able to act as a useful memory jogger.

      Interesting to know that you’ve seen similar recently too.

      Do let us know if you find out anything further during your investigations.

      All the best,


  3. Will
    | Reply

    Saw them here in Wakefield from 10am in the kitchen. Was a strange thing to see and with the clouds hard to photograph from my location.

    But as it was the first time seeing them it did make a nice day watching the weather.

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