Bizarre cloud formation over New Zealand isn't Photoshopped

Weather can do some bizarre things here on Earth. From flooding to volcanoes to tsunamis, our planet has a lot of strange phenomenon that it can throw at us. A picture has been making the rounds of some very strange cloud formations over New Zealand. The first time I saw the photograph, I thought it was a Photoshop fake.

As it turns out, the picture you see above was snapped above Hamner Springs in Canterbury, New Zealand and is an actual cloud formation, albeit a very rare one. The picture turned up on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day webpage this week, although the photograph itself is from 2005. The cloud formation is unofficially known as Undulatus asperatus.

According to the NASA website, this cloud formation is very unusual and remains relatively unstudied. Undulatus asperatus has even been suggested as a new type of cloud. This formation appears to have a lot of vertical structures hanging underneath whereas many other types of clouds have the vertical formations above a rather flat cloud base.

According to NASA, this particular cloud formation could be related to lenticular clouds that form near mountains. Since the cloud formation is relatively unstudied, what causes the clouds is up for debate. The Undulatus asperatus clouds are believed to also possibly be related to mammatus clouds that are associated with thunderstorms or another phenomenon known as foehn wind. Foehn wind is a type of dry downward wind that flows off mountains. In fact, that type of wind is known to stream towards the east coast of New Zealand and is called the Canterbury arch.

[via Twitter - Lidija Davis]