Did you take a shelfie? A look at shelf clouds - WNEM TV 5

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Did you take a shelfie? A look at shelf clouds

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Credit: Jessica Gager-Gallop (Pine River) Credit: Jessica Gager-Gallop (Pine River)
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

As rain and thunderstorms moved through Mid-Michigan early this morning, lightning may not have been the only flash occurring. Those flashes of lightning may have been joined by the flash on your camera!

Not too long after the rain had started passing through Mid-Michigan, the pictures started appearing on the TV5 Facebook page, showing pictures of what we call a shelf cloud, which was on the front end of a line of rain and thunderstorms.

These clouds are a common submission to us throughout the summer when thunderstorms move through the area, mainly due to their sometimes ominous appearance. While they can have that frightening look to them, shelf clouds are not wall clouds or tornadoes.

So what causes them? The answer starts with the downdraft of the thunderstorm, where cooler air is descending from the cloud towards the ground. Once the air reaches the surface, it spreads out.

As it does so, it undercuts warmer, moist air out ahead of the storm and lifts that air. As that warm, moist air is lifted upward, it condenses. What we're left with is a very cool weather phenomenon known as the shelf cloud!

Have a shelf cloud photo from this morning? Post it to our Facebook page (WNEM TV5) or email us at wnem@wnem.com!

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