Ever wondered how photographers capture amazing shots of hikers in the clouds? It’s not (always) the magic of Photoshop my friends, but cloud inversions. Discover when a cloud inversion can happen and the best places to find cloud inversions with my short guide below.
What is a Cloud Inversion?
In essence, a cloud inversion is a temperature inversion, a reversal of hot and cold air. Usually the sun will heat the ground, and consequently the ground heats the air around it. As hikers move uphill, the air temperature drops because there’s usually less ground and sun to heat the air. This is a standard temperature gradient.
With a cloud inversion, these two are swapped. Cold air (and if you’re lucky, clouds and fog) is pushed down onto lower ground levels, like valleys. A layer of warm air will sit over the top of the cold air layer, creating the unusual appearance of a cloud inversion!
How to Predict a Cloud Inversion
In order to predict a cloud inversion, it helps to understand the UK’s unique weather system. Our collection of islands sits right between four weather fronts: Continental winds hit us from mainland Europe, icy winds from the North Pole strikes us from the north, hot blasts toast us from southern Europe and Africa, and maritime winds give us a good dousing from the west. No wonder our weather is so difficult to predict!
Given the UK sits geographically north, we have long nighttime periods and low temperatures in winter. This means if the UK has had a spell of stable cold weather, a layer of cloud will sit closer to the ground. Cold air also sinks, and as it does it condenses into moisture. With little heat from the ground available to warm the cold air, it sticks around for longer. This gives a layer of hot air, which generally rises, to sit over the top of the cold air. This explains why cloud inversions usually occur in winter.
Where to Find a Cloud Inversion
First, check which area has experienced the weather patterns mentioned above. After this, find a peak that sits above a sheltered valley. Usually, this will give you a better opportunity to see a cloud inversion. Areas with lots of mountains or hills will give you a better chance of experiencing one for yourself!
Cloud Inversion – Peak District
The Peak District might not have the mountains of Scotland, but its deep valleys do provide opportunities for stunning pictures. Check out the following spots to catch a cloud inversion:
- Winnats Pass
- Hope Valley
- Mam Tor
- Higgar Tor
Cloud Inversion – Lake District
The Lake District’s large bodies of water and mountainous terrain mean opportunities abound to spot a cloud inversion. Here are the few places where eagle-eyed photographers (including me!) have spotted cloud inversions in the Lake District:
- Dove Crag
Cloud Inversion – Scotland
Scotland is one of the best places to catch a cloud inversion, given its lochs and tall peaks. These spots in Scotland are known for catching that inversion magic:
- Ben Nevis
- Ben Oss
- Beinn Ghlas
- Sgorr Dhonuill