Calling all cloud experts...
This unique cloud formation was spotted off Port Townsend on May 25 and I'm stumped as to what caused it.
Lenore Maranan-Goldstein, the managing director of the Northwest Maritime Center & Wooden Boat Foundation, took these two photographs of the clouds as they sat just off the northern tip of Marrowstone Island.
"I only wish I had a wide-angle lens to completely capture the sheer size of its base, which extended all the way out past the tip of Marrowstone Island," she wrote in an e-mail. "It looked like a giant inverted funnel. It just doesn't quite fit any category of cloud formation!"
I'll say. I've sent this to a few UW people but so far, no one has a concrete explanation of the conditions that caused this.
The area where the cloud formation was spotted is amidst very complex terrain where the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the northern reaches of Admiralty Inlet. You can get some decent wind swirls there.
(Here is a Google map of where the photographer was. She was looking SW)
She added: "The left edge of the funnel base went past the eastern tip of Marrowstone Island; I could not see where the right side of the funnel ended, because it was hidden behind the buildings on Water St. "
I thought maybe the heat from the smokestack of the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry caused a nice updraft in a fog bank as the ferry passed by -- the regular course of the run does pass between where the photo was taken and Marrowstone Island. But that's about all I've got, and that seems like it would be way too small of a scale to cause such a large cloud formation.
Anyone else want to chime in? Here are some larger photos:
Thursday afternoon update: Most of the hypthosesis are running with an updraft inside the fog bank, which makes sense. Question is what caused the updraft. One NOAA employee wrote: "There is some evidence of low level wind shear as the outside of the cloud is rounded and smooth."
Friday afternoon update: Mystery solved? One of my good friends, Nick Walker over at The Weather Channel, passed this on to Dr. Greg Forbes -- one of the top meteorology experts around. He too went with the updraft caused by some sort of lift amid a low-level stable fog layer. A bit more sleuthing of the topography finds that Kala Point is to the southwest of this photographer and sticks up about 350 feet elevation amidst the rest of the land which is around 100 feet. So maybe the air flow was just right to get a limited updraft off the hilltop.