These images were captured by photographer Salem Al-Sawafi…

Kermit the Frog once famously sang, “it’s not easy being green“. His gripe was with the difficulties posed by his abnormal (outside of the amphibious reptile community) skin colouration. Since then it’s been picked up and used by the environmental lobby as a slogan that acknowledges the challenge of being eco-conscious in our modern consumer society.

But it could equally be applied to clouds too. It’s not easy for them to show green colouration – unless they’re in a cartoon and denoting an ominous odour. But nature does have a few chromatic tricks up its sleeve.

If you spotted a green tinge to the storm clouds that engulfed swathes of the UAE today, you’re not alone. In fact, they were captured here quite dramatically by talented photographer Salem Al-Sawafi.


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But how can storm clouds appear green?

It takes a very specific set of circumstances for this virescence (that’s the scientific term for turning green) to occur in clouds.

It’s a phenomenon usually associated with supercells, these are cumuliform storm clouds that contain a mesocyclone – essentially a rotating updraft. Strong updrafts form when the top of the cloud is particularly cold, driving the rising air through temperature, moisture and pressure disparities.

Dramatic Image of a Supercell Storm on the Great Plains in summertime

The updraft causes hail and ice formation and it’s that which is believed to cause a scattering of light wavelengths – in this case, blue light, leaving us to observe an abundance of green light, and thus a Kermit-coloured atmosphere.

Images: Getty / Salem Al-Sawafi via UAE BARQ