Social media lit up around 7:30 this morning with hundreds of pictures of an incredibly dramatic sky over New York City, with layers of dark, intense clouds swirling over Manhattan. Clouds this ominous usually signal the approach of a horrible storm or Tammy Swanson. What kind of clouds were they?
Judging by the pictures I've seen, it was nothing significant. The clouds on their own were pretty cool looking, but it's the deep dark colors that gave them their dramatic appearance. We're looking at two different layers of clouds—the first is the higher-up blanket of clouds, which appear to be altostratus based on their textured, almost wavy appearance. The lowerings just above the horizon—appearing to touch the tops of the buildings depending on your vantage point—were simple cumulus clouds.
Here's a good view of the sky taken by Lauren Panepinto on Twitter:
— Lauren Panepinto (@Planetpinto) September 30, 2014
The cumulus clouds rise from a very low altitude, topping off when they hit the undulating altostratus deck.
The top image on this post is an excellent wide view of the sky over the city, taken by matthewtarosky on Instagram. Again, we can see the puffy cumulus towering over Manhattan, and you can actually see rain falling in the background to the left of the Empire State Building. The great thing about this picture (other than its wide view) is that it almost looks like the rising updrafts put a dent in the stratus deck above the cumulus.
The doom-portending clouds quickly cleared through and the city and its eight million inhabitants survived. If you have any awesome pictures of the sky (in NYC or anywhere else!), feel free to email them to me.