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Our next What’s This? challenge materialized on December 4, 2013. Name it to win nature notoriety and $5 off any of my outings or workshops. Enter using the comments section below. (Fear not – I don’t publish incorrect answers.) Here are the rest of the What’s This? contests.

Added at 6:40 p.m. (with a bonus What’s This? below): Okay, that was easier than most of my challenges. Yep, clouds at sunset from a Boeing 737 flying at 37,020 feet at 624 mph somewhere over Minnesota, where the outside air temperature was -72F. (Nobody managed to get those details.) Dave Spier was first on this one. Willem Leenstra was actually first on this one. But check out some of the comments below. Sara Backer takes her customary creativity prize, and a few other creative erroneous responses include “Sastrugi,” “ripples of sand under water,” and this gem: “Wind-driven skim ice on a large body of water. Reckon the Inuit have a name for it (or ten), but I call it wind-driven skim ice.”


Okay, here’s a bonus What’s This? (I’ve climbed each one.) Name them. (Hint: Folks have named Rainier, Hood, Baker, Jefferson and St. Helens. It’s one of those, plus one not yet mentioned.)


  1. Chris Pratt says:

    Adams and Hood? No wait it is Bacherlor and Shasta.

  2. Jeffrey Allen says:

    Antisana and Cotapaxi?

  3. Jeffrey Allen says:

    Geesh, I was too slow. I was going to say Altocumulus Stratiformis!

  4. dianne richardson says:

    That is I’ve looked at clouds from both sides not,
    from win and lose but still somehow,
    It’s clouds illusions I recall..
    I really don’t know
    clouds at all. Joni Mitchell
    Is one of the mountains Denali?

  5. Sara Backer says:

    Hey, they look a lot like Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. Did you climb up and ski down?

  6. Sue Cloutier says:

    Hood and Jefferson?

  7. Kristen Lindquist says:

    Ooh, I know you’re in the Cascades… Mount Hood and Mount Rainier (I’m awful with distances–is that too close?) or Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens? Enjoy your West Coast sojourn!

  8. Tim Colman says:

    Mountains Baker and Rainier. Congratulations on climbing them both.

  9. Judy Brook says:

    Hi Bryan,
    This is morning (or evening) light on clouds viewed from an airplane above the cloud layer. One of my favorite sights when traveling. I always get a window seat and keep my nose pressed to the window.

    My best,

  10. Paul Sokal says:

    It looks like cloud cover from aloft out the window of an aircraft.

  11. Cloud cover from above (in an airplane I would guess). Cindy Senning

  12. Brian says:

    looks like ice and snow to me with many rows of altocumulus clouds

  13. Sara Backer says:

    Instead of your usual brilliantly focused photos, you mistakenly posted a drop shot—that is, a blurry shot of the carpet you stand upon: a nylon twist-weave carpet made of a mix of wool, cotton, and hemp. I believe this color is called “barley”. (I have always wanted the job of inventing color names for stuff.)

  14. Iris Clearwater says:

    A field of clouds seen from the air, is my guess. I have myself marveled at such a view.

  15. Lydia Pope says:

    Looks like a mackeral sky to me …………….

  16. Kelly Finan says:

    Cirrocumulus clouds?!

  17. Sally says:

    Picture of the clouds from above?

  18. Kay Schlueter says:

    Above the clouds, looks like to me. I don’t know the meteorlogical name of those kind of clouds, but would “heavenly” do?

  19. Tobey says:

    It looks like the sun’s rays hitting a cloud formation as seen from an airplane window!

  20. Sue Cloutier says:

    a cloud layer of altocumulus clouds that make a mackerel sky

  21. Dana Baughman says:

    Clouds photographed from an airplane.

  22. morganlady69 says:

    It looks like sun on the “tops” of clouds as seen from a plane.

  23. john askildsen says:

    stratus cloud layer from 35,000 feet.

  24. cloud tops – altocumulus undulatus

  25. Steve Allen says:

    Altocumulus clouds.
    Steve Allen

  26. Lani Duke says:

    cirrocumulus clouds? piling up a bit because of upswept land downwind?

  27. I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
    but still somehow,
    It’s cloud’s illusions,
    I recall

  28. Willem Leenstra says:

    I think it’s some kind of unusual or unnatural cloud formation.

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