A UFO? Only in cloud cuckoo land

Reasonable explanation for bizarre sight in skies

Independent, Ireland/June 28, 2011

If you'd spotted this bizarre sight in the skies over Wicklow at the weekend, you might have been forgiven for thinking you needed an eye test.

Or you might, alternatively, have scoured the hedgerows looking to see if you could find any small green visitors from outer space who may have alighted from what looked for all the world like a UFO.

But it wasn't a flying saucer -- or anything similarly extraterrestrial -- as any cloudspotter worth his salt could tell you.

This unusual shape, photographed hovering over fields in Blessington, Co Wicklow, is in fact a rare cloud -- a lenticular cloud, to be precise.

These unusual, disc-shaped formations, which look uncannily like flying saucers, are formed during windy, muggy weather conditions and usually appear near mountains.

Lenticular clouds are very rare in Ireland but common in mountainous areas of the US.

Mark Dunphy, from Irish Weather Online, said the clouds were seldom spotted because they did not last for very long.

"Lenticular cloud formations are more commonly seen in the skies during summer and are usually located near mountain summits," he said.

Met Eireann forecaster Deirdre Lowe added that they were formed during humid conditions, as happened over the weekend, and that they were commonly mistaken for UFOs because of their smooth saucer-like shape.

"They do occur, but not so often in Ireland. In the US they occur more often," she said.

The steamy humidity which saw the mercury reach close to 24C on Sunday has been blown away by fresh breezes from the Atlantic.

The next few days are expected to be largely dry with clear spells and the usual Irish summer showers, particularly along the west and south-west coasts.

Temperatures will dip as low as 6C today.

Tomorrow promises to bring a mix of sunshine and scattered showers, some heavy in the west, north and south-west, with highest temperatures of 13C to 17C.

Thursday and Friday will bring showers to most places and it will be driest and brightest along the east coast.

As the weather warmed up, Met Eireann's Jean Byrne helped to launch this year's Marie Keating Foundation Skin Cancer Awareness campaign.

Sunlovers are urged to apply enough suncream -- about three tablespoons of cream per application -- and to be particularly careful between noon and 4pm.

In an effort to reduce the incidence of the most common cancer in Ireland, other tips include wearing sun protection wherever you are.

Sun protection cream should be reapplied after swimming or perspiring, while children should be covered up with a T-shirt and hat or covered in very high-factor suncream.

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