Called cumulonimbus or thunderheads, they are the most dramatic clouds with their tall and imposing shapes. These clouds grow vertically instead of horizontally, forming into dense towers that can reach 20,000 feet, though they’ve also been known to go as high as 75,000 feet. (The cruising altitude for commercial airliners is 30,000 feet). Cumulonimbus clouds are amongst the heaviest clouds weighing the equivalent of 350 sperm whales! Amazing to think that this is hovering above.
The mature cumulonimbus cloud has a distinctive flat, anvil shaped top which is formed when the their tops encounter high winds, which cause them to spread out sideways. The presence of thunderheads means that severe weather conditions like heavy rains, hail, lightning and thunder are imminent. So, as stunning as they might be to photograph, they also carry with them a certain amount of risk.
Here are 25 of the most stunning images of thunderheads, from the beautiful and colorful to the dark and interesting.