Lots of eyes were turned skyward, and cameras were clicking in Carpinteria and other areas of the South Coast on Friday evening.
But it wasn’t a bird or a plane or superman they were watching. Rather, it was a very unusual, rocket-shaped cloud that formed, seemingly out of nowhere, shortly before sunset.
Lenticular clouds — also known as altocumulus lenticularis — form at high altitudes, and are normally aligned with the direction of the wind. Due to their odd shape — somewhat like a lens and often looking like a saucer — they are sometimes offered as the explanation for UFOs.
Forwood said he watched the cloud develop from his home in Ojai, noting that it was caused by winds from the north pushing moist air over the ocean.
“I watched it form,” Forwood said. “It kind of looked like the hat from the Cat in the Hat.”
Forwood explained that lenticular clouds can form when stable moist air flows over the mountains and creates one or more waves of air. The clouds form when the moist air condenses over the cooler ocean environment. Often they are rounder than Friday’s cloud.
“That was a very unusual shape,” he said. “I guess there was just enough moisture to create that one little column.”