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Cool wave clouds were spotted over the Front Range Monday. What are they and how do they form?

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DENVER (KDVR) — These amazing wave clouds were spotted on the Front Range Monday morning around sunrise. These clouds look similar to ocean waves in the sky and are rare.

Photo taken in Parker by Dennis Stephens

The name for these clouds is Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability clouds. They are also known as billow or wave clouds named after their appearance.

This type of cloud most commonly forms during sunrise or sunset. They develop when there are two parallel air masses that are different densities. In order for these to form, there is a warm layer on top of the cloud and a cold, dense layer underneath.

These two different densities create wind shear, which is a difference in wind speed for each of the two layers. The warm less dense air on top is traveling at a faster speed than the lower cold air on bottom. This fast moving air on top is what pushes the top of the cloud into a wave pattern.

Photo taken in Parker by Dennis Stephens

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