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Rare 'ocean wave' clouds spotted over Valrico

The clouds are called Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds and are unusual to see in Florida.
Credit: Ronald Kotinsky

Clouds have many names. There are the most popular cumulus, cirrus and stratus clouds. Then, there are more obscure cloud names like Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds. 

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds are also rare, but they were spotted and quickly photographed Wednesday by Ronald Kotinsky in his front yard in Valrico.

Kotinsky said he was intrigued to see the wave patterns and ran to grab his camera. He is one of Tampa Bay's best nature and weather photographers and suspected they may be the rare clouds they are.

Kelvin-Helmholtz are known as wave clouds and are not common to see in Florida. They’re actually rare anywhere.  

Clouds can develop this wave shape when there is a difference in air density and when the air above is moving more quickly than the air below. The faster wind above actually pushes over the tops of the clouds and creates the ocean wave-like appearance. 

"The pattern did not last long and soon dissipated. Love to see how clouds obey and act like fluids," added Kotinsky.

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds are named after Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, whom have studied the physics of the instability that leads to this type of cloud formation.

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds can also be a sign to aircraft in the area that turbulence may be experienced.

These odd clouds are even believed to have inspired Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

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