Mushroom Cloud of Doom?

October 6, 2016
Mushroom Cloud of Doom

Does this cloud look like a mushroom in the sky? It appeared over Russia last month and had locals fearing that “doomsday” had arrived.

To many locals, the clouds looked like the ‘mushroom cloud’ of a nuclear explosion. The emergency services for the Siberian city of Kemerovo were deluged with calls. While some feared a nuclear strike, other thought it might be an explosion in one of the nearby coal mines. The media started calling it the Siberian “Cloud of Doom.”

However, this ‘mushroom cloud’ was just a cloud, albeit a massive cumulonimbus cloud.

Believe it or not, I have a fluffy grey kitten named Cumulonimbus! His purrs rumble and his tiny paws lash out like lightning. He was a tiny grey storm cloud with attitude, so it made sense to me—a self-professed weather geek—to name him after the stormy clouds that produce tornadoes.

It’s not Doomsday—just a supercell thundercloud. Source: Wikimedia

Fortunately, no one had declared war against the Siberian woodlands. Authorities were able to reassure the local residents that this unusually large cumulonimbus cloud was perfectly natural.

What is a Cumulonimbus Cloud?

Supercell storms are the strongest of thunderstorms, able to sprout tornadoes. (Indeed, within that week, Russia had a rare tornado rip through the city of Syktyvkar and reports of a tornado or water spout near the former Russian Olympic city of Sochi.)

The supercell storm cloud swirls as high as 55,000 to 70,000 feet above the ground and is topped by a spreading cloud mass called an anvil. If the updraft is strong and narrow enough, it can look like a mushroom cloud.

The “Doomsday” cloud was a supercell with a narrow updraft and huge anvil. Source: Wikimedia

Indeed, the residents of Kemerovo, once they were reassured, found the cloud inspirational. It is mushroom season in the Siberian woods and the cloud was obviously a sign that it was time to go out and collect some dinner.

So there was a happy ending. Instead of Doomsday, the Russians had stroganoff. May all our worries have such a tasty solution!

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.