Roger's SkyPix

Mini Cloud Atlas

Stratus Band over Mono Lake

Stratus Band over Mono Lake

The alternately cold to frigid layers of air hung over California's biggest alkaline puddle, as if the breatheable fluid above shared the water's predicament: no outlet. A stout inversion in the temperature profile, and just enough moisture from both the lake and evaporated snow, provided a delight in subtleties of air motion, as manifest in growth and decay of stratified cloud layers. Ribbons, bands and strips of stratus came and went, silent as ghosts. Staring at them continuously didn't imply much change. In contrast, looking away only for a few moments, then back again, was like seeing a different partly cloudy winter day every time, and best of all, with the spectacular Sierra Nevada range and Mono's reflective wonderment as a grandiose setting. The balance between condensation and transparent air was tilted only a few percentage points of humidity either way, at most, from saturated to not quite so, at the whim of a fickle, imperceptible shift in air within the layers, nudged imperceptibly toward clear or cloudy by weak up or down motions and the feeble heat of the low sun.

5 ESE Lee Vining CA (20 Jan 6), looking W.