Riga, Latvia

Developing mammatus

Mammatus cloud cells begining to form

Riga, Latvia

All week, the poplar trees at the northern end of Lençu iela have been shedding an almost continuous stream of white fluff, which blows slowly down the street, then turns the corner to settle on the sidewalks of Strelniecku iela in thick drifts. The gently-blowing white fluff lends a slightly surreal air to the otherwise utilitarian street.

When the thunderstorm began, the first strong downdrafts shook all the fluff out of the trees in an instant. Suddenly, the air was so dense with windblown poplar seed that it looked almost like a kind of patchy fog. A few minutes later, the rain began, and in moments the fluff had all been washed out of the air, only a few pieces continuing to circle slowly through the downpour.

The rain lasted for perhaps ten minutes, and by the time that it started to slacken off, the sun was already breaking through the clouds. A double rainbow formed, one intense bow lower down, with a fainter duplicate above it. I grabbed my camera and ran down to the street, with the idea of trying to get a shot of the double bow over the Art Nouveau buildings at the intersection of Strelniecku iela and Alberta iela.

When I reached the corner, the rainbow was already starting to fade. The outer bow had gone and the inner bow was already beginning to lose its brightness. I took a few pictures and then began to walk back up Strelniecku iela towards my guesthouse. Abruptly, I stopped, and took out my camera again.

The sky overhead was filled with a bizarre cloud formation, rounded masses like bubbles descending from the underside of the cloudbase. I had seen pictures of mammatus clouds before, but never seen them with my own eyes. I walked north to try to get a clear view, unobstructed by buildings. Outside the fire station, a solitary fireman looked at me as if wondering why the foreigner was staring open-mouthed at the sky. He barely spared the clouds a second glance. Apparently, the mammatus were a novelty only to me.