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What Caused These Spooky Clouds Over SW Denver?

By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) - With Halloween just a few days away Mother Nature put on a "spooky" show in southwest Denver on Tuesday.

CBS4 Weather Watcher Mike Quaintance took these pictures around 3 p.m. from Wadsworth and Bowles. He said the clouds lasted less than 20 minutes.

Virga over southwest Denver. (credit: Mike Quaintance)

The explanation for these cool clouds is simple. It's virga!

Virga is precipitation that falls from a cloud but evaporates before reaching the ground. The result can be cool cloud formations as the evaporating rain or snow interacts with wind patterns in the atmosphere.

While virga can make for a great picture it's not good news if you're hoping for rain.

Virga means that the air between you and the cloud is extremely dry. If virga is overhead you'll typically experience gusty winds and/or a few sprinkles on the ground below.

In a stronger or more organized storm system the atmosphere can actually moisten up over time and eventually reach a point where precipitation can survive the trip between a cloud and the ground.

Meteorologist Chris Spears writes about stories related to weather and climate in Colorado. Check out his bio, connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.

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