Rare winter shelf cloud spotted in far southwest Virginia

These clouds are often seen in association with springtime and summertime storms

By Chris Michaels - Meteorologist

Photo Credit: Billy Bowling - Lebanon, VA

LEBANON, Va. - Shelf clouds themselves are not rare, but they become much less common in the winter months. We see them pretty often on the leading edge of a thunderstorm in the spring and summer. 

However, Billy Bowling got the magnificent shot you see at the top of the article in Lebanon, Virginia. (For those that don't know, that is in Russell County - roughly an hour north of Bristol.)

When rain happens in a storm, the air naturally cools. Ahead of that storm, though, warmer air can flow inward and make contact with the rain-cooled air coming out from the storm.

Once that warm air rises, cools and condenses - it does so in the shape of a shelf cloud. 

Oftentimes, this is a sign of high wind gusts and then a downpour. The air ahead of Saturday's shower in Lebanon must have been just warm enough to rise above the shower's outflow and create this beautiful, yet scary, cloud.

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