Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday search challenge (7/31/13): What's going on here?

This is a remarkable photograph of an unusual atmospheric phenomenon.  When I saw this photo in an article I was reading, I couldn't believe it.  Was this real?  Or was it some kind of manipulated photograph that was supposed to create a feeling of fear and dread--could it be the backdrop for a beach scene in a zombie movie?  

After a little bit of searching around, I found that not only is this a real photo, but these kinds of clouds form on a regular basis in a few places around the world.   Supposedly, these clouds go in both directions as far as the eye can see.  

And there's one place in the southern hemisphere where they take shape on a regular basis.

I'm completely captivated by these gigantic, otherworldly clouds.  Suppose I want to go see them for myself?  That leads to today's search challenges: 

1.  (easy)  What kind of a cloud is this?  (And what's the other name that they're often called?)  
2.  (medium)  If I only have 2 weeks for my vacation, where do you recommend I travel so I'll have a high chance of seeing them?  When should I go there? 
3.  (harder)  Can you find out if these cloud formations are happening now?  Prove it with some current imagery!  (Meaning, pictures from this week.) 

As always, be sure to tell us how long it took you to find the answers--AND how you found them.  Teach us your search strategy! 

Search on! 


  1. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    Image with url. Found: Roll
    type and place of the cloud

    with explanation and what this cloud is

    [roll cloud names]

    [Roll cloud] images, Search tools, Past week

    Searching images found in that they are also known as a "morning glory" cloud.

    [Morning glory cloud] images, Search tools, Past week

    [Roll clouds] g+ photos most recent

    [roll cloud formation seeing spots]


    1. (easy) What kind of a cloud is this? (And what's the other name that they're often called?)
    Arcus Cloud. Rolling Cloud and Morning Glory Cloud.

    2. (medium) If I only have 2 weeks for my vacation, where do you recommend I travel so I'll have a high chance of seeing them? When should I go there?
    A. Australia. Northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria in September.

    3. (harder) Can you find out if these cloud formations are happening now? Prove it with some current imagery! (Meaning, pictures from this week.)A.

    Image of Luis Vazquez in Chicago.

    In Alberta, Canada. June 18.

  2. Ramón -- can you tell us how you found these great cloud pictures? How did you do the search?

    1. Hello Dr. Russell.

      I found the picures using [Roll Cloud] in images, then Search tools, then past week. There I visited and look data that confirms pictures are from this week.

      After that, remembered the Google Plus feature that finds images with just the name. Tried [Roll Clouds] photos most recent.

      Finally, before reading your Blog again, tried searching for Photospheres or Autoawesome ["roll cloud" gif] shows . Morning Glory in motion No luck with other kind of pictures.

      I like to share too an image that I found in Google Plus [roll cloud.gif] it is not a Roll Cloud. It is a waterspout

      I believe that searching for specific images with G+ autoawesome doesn´t work like I tried and at least found something interesting and practiced and searched in new ways with G+. Hope you like it.

    2. To Ramon and Dr. Russell
      Well this is embarrassing. I did see the roll cloud image for Calgary June 18 2013 and I thought it looked fake. Besides I'd know about such an event since I live west of the city. Well I did some further investigation after seeing Ramon's posting. I checked our local (credible) television newscast for that day and yes it was reported. Here's the roll cloud in the early stages on the morning of the 18th

      Our province has wild & crazy weather often in June with major flooding usually occurring in this month. We are also the hail capital of either Canada but I think North America. Lucky us! Well done Ramon.

    3. Thanks for sharing the image RoseMary and for your words.

      Maybe in these days you can see a Roll cloud live and share the image with us.

      Have a wonderful day.

  3. looks like M. González has it sorted out… would shoot for late Sept/early Oct if you are headed to AU. See ABC|AU story -
    found this to be a pretty good explanation:
    Morning Glory
    flickr has a group for Arcus/shelf/roll clouds:
    and here:
    Earth Science Picture of the Day
    this was a good resource:
    as you indicated, the clouds can happen in a number of locations, not just the coast - like the Calgary one Ramón pointed out -
    west Texas
    coast of Brazil
    as Ramón notes, Facebook is a good source for current images and I think Twitter is even better - do you have any search pointers for those sites? - I find searching them kinda hit-or-miss…
    video -
    aerial views
    and over the Aral Sea:
    wave clouds

  4. a couple other items - for the AU area, checked hang gliding & sailplane sites and found this -
    long roll
    cloud soaring
    and this -
    Cloud Appreciation Society - who knew?

    Roll on!

  5. As a long time member of the Cloud Appreciation Society I knew this is a roll cloud.

    For confirmation I dragged your pix into IMAGES et voila there it is and many more.

    Roll Cloud is a type of arcus cloud. It is known in Australia (and beyond) as Morning Glory because it comes in at dawn.

    This site explains it:

    The best place to experience it is from Burketown in Queensland. Its looming presence is forecast by the bar tables curling at the corners and the freezer windows frosting over; both due to increased humidity. September to November is the best time. They also seem to appear the day after you leave ! Great gliding experience surfing the up draft at the front. Roll clouds have been recorded in many places in Australia and around the world

    The most recent image I could find was via which yielded an image of a roll cloud 26 July 2013 - this week - over Elkhart Indiana

    A good read is The CloudSpotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. He also gives a good TED talk.

    Really interesting topic !

    jon the unknown who spent about 15/20 minutes on this

  6. 1. I was already familiar with the phenomenon from a Wired article from December [] , so I googled “roll cloud’ which led me to a Wikipedia page describing Arcus Clouds [] . Roll clouds are a specific type of arcus cloud (low horizontal cloud formation). From the Wired article, roll clouds appear to be rolling because the leading edge is forming at the same rate as the trailing edge is breaking up. The arcus Wikipedia page led me to the Morning Glory cloud Wikipedia page [].
    2. Roll clouds are relatively rare but they are seen with some regularity late September to early November over Northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpenteria. Glider pilots often visit the nearby settlement of Burketown during this time to ride the Morning Glory clouds, as they are locally known.
    3. To find recent occurrences I searched for “roll cloud” within the past week. I found two youtube videos that claimed to be of roll cloud formations over Texas [ &] but I was only able to identify one roll-cloud like formation in one. Further down my search I found twitter links and images that identified roll cloud sightings. I hopped over to twitter and search there and found numerous mentions and pictures referencing recent sightings. A few are linked to below.
    It was important to screen the tweets and pictures and ensure that the sighting was recent, and not just a retweeet or mention of an earlier sightin as the most common tweet was a retweet or mention of the roll cloud in the Search Research OP, which was taken in early July in Uruguay. Lesson is while Twitter can be a good source of what is happening “in the now” a bit filtering is needed to determine what is actually happening currently vs what is spreading currently.
    If anyone wants to view a a year of the sky on earth (filmed from the roof of the Exploratorium museum in SF, CA) check out this video:

  7. guess this makes me a Dag— OK, so now I have Morning Glory Clouder Fever (local Garrawa Aboriginal people called it kangólgi.)
    - good glider footage -
    like an aborigine…

    aussie slang

  8. Dan, one last one for you - especially if you are going cloud hunting:

  9. I copied the picture into Advanced image search which gave me several similar pictures suggesting it was a roll cloud.
    A search for "roll cloud" brings up wikipedia saying it is also called arcus cloud.
    WP also tells me the most reliable formation is the Morning Glory Cloud in Northern Australia at a place called Burketown.
    Best time to go is late Sept to early Nov.
    A search for [best places to see morning glory cloud] confirms Burketown as likely place.
    Not sure at first how to find recent occurrences but a quick glance at one of your cheat sheets reminds me about custom dates option which I use to find several possibilities.
    I still have to check in the results as many are referring to earlier occurrences and not now but there seems to have been one in fort Riley, Kansas last week.
    Out of curiosity I also limit to UK sites and find a newspaper site reporting one in Bournemouth, UK. Although when read it turns out to have been in May this year.
    So shall we be saying 'G'day mate' soon?

    1. wondered if this was the one you mentioned? - liked that "Storm Wallace, 26, of Portland" was cited as an eyewitness - but also noted it was from 2011… maybe Bouremouth is becoming a hotbed of roll cloud activity?;-)
      rolling in the UK

  10. Query[horizontal cloud formation]
    1) Wikipedia -Arcus ( Roll Clouds, Morning Glory Clouds) (Source 1) Answer #1

    One of the most famous frequent occurrences is the Morning Glory cloud in Queensland Australia. Source 2)
    Horizontal convective rolls, also known as horizontal roll vortices or cloud streets, are long rolls of counter-rotating air that are oriented approximately parallel to the ground in the planetary boundary layer

    Query Google [Images "roll cloud" "morning glory cloud" with Time Filter -one week]
    Images were reposted - I didn't find any originals for 2013.

    [Switch to -Google Australia Domain]
    To find realtime cloud tracking.
    3)Video of Cloud Surfing (Beautiful Rolls of Clouds) Source 3)

    4) Forum discussion - on the ground details) Known as Morning Glory clouds, they appear every fall over Burketown, Queensland, Australia, a remote town with fewer than 200 residents. A small number of pilots and tourists travel there each year in hopes of “cloud surfing” with the mysterious phenomenon.Similar tubular shaped clouds called roll clouds appear in various places around the globe. But nobody has yet figured out what causes the Morning Glory clouds. Their origins are a complete mystery. Source 4)

    5)Most thorough details at Morning Glory Australia
    Morning Glory CloudsWhere: Burketown, Australia (from September to November)The southern region the Gulf of Carpentaria is the only place Morning Glory clouds can be predicted and observed on a regular basis. Many glider pilots travel to this area to ride the currents that create these incredible formations. Up to 620 miles long and 1.2 miles high, these clouds sit low to the ground and can move up to 37 miles per hours. There may be up to eight consecutive roll clouds, depending on weather conditions. Source 5) Answer #2 Book your flight to Burketown, Queensland, Australia but check this site first to see most recent reports.

    Source 1)
    Source 2)
    Source 3)
    Source 4)
    Source 5)

  11. 1.(easy) What kind of a cloud is this? (And what's the other name that they're often called?)
    My answer: It's an Arcus cloud, also called Roll clouds and shelf clouds
    How I found it: A google image search with this picture led to the Wikipedia notion of roll cloud.

    2. (medium) If I only have 2 weeks for my vacation, where do you recommend I travel so I'll have a high chance of seeing them? When should I go there?
    The southern part of Northern Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria
    How: "see also" section in Wikipedia.
    3. (harder) Can you find out if these cloud formations are happening now?
    How: Google image search

  12. This was a easy one for me since I already knew what it was from having taken this picture - on vacation in Captiva, Florida on the 4th of July a few years ago. I asked one of the weather channel guys about it on Twitter when I got back. Mine is actually a shelf cloud because it is attached to the weather system while the photo you have is a roll cloud because it is (or appears) separate from the weather system.

    2. To have the best chance of seeing once, the so-called Morning Glory clouds appear regularly in the fall in Queensland australia -

    3. Are they happening right now - I used the weather channels, cloud radar in motion for Queensland and at least not right there, but it is winter rather than fall.

  13. Did a search for that didn't work as Google switched the search to funnel cloud. So I substituted tube for tunnel and quickly found the answer - Arcus clouds. They are also known as roll clouds.

    This search also led me to this site In this article I found the name of another type of cloud the morning glory cloud which is found in Queensland Australia. Sounds like it is very common there so think this is the answer. I am running out so can't verify this information. will come back to the last part later as well even though I know the answer is posted already.

    1. Debbie -- what was your original search? Was it [ tunnel cloud ] ? I get good results for that. But I agree that [ tube cloud ] also gives good results.

  14. Yes it I added in the word long tunnel clouds but got too many results that were for water spouts to so that is when I switched to the word tube and voila got the answer very quickly.