The Morning Glory is the name given to a unique type of roll cloud a formation of the stratocumulus genus, that usually appears for a few mornings of the early spring months of September or October. The area in which it appears is a very remote part of Northern Queensland over the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia.
The formations name Morning Glory derives from the meaning ‘conveys the feeling of elation which it’s passage arouses’, this is very different from the native aborigine name ‘Yippipee’ which means that the cloud brings the wet season which starts around late October. The aboriginal communities local to the area where the Morning Glory appears respect the danger that this phenomenon brings, describing it using the word ‘dunderman’ (dangerous), but they do not fear it.
The Morning Glory usually appears from the Northeast, this comes in from over the Gulf. It is said to appear as a dark line on the horizon and as the sun comes up and the cloud moves closer to land the reflection of colour on the clouds surface is mesmerising. The sunrise illuminates the pure white coat orange, lilac and indigo. The clouds surface can vary, sometimes appearing smooth, others rough. The roll cloud can stretch up to 600 miles, the length of Britain and moves at a speed of around 35mph, disturbing the dust on the ground as it moves closer to land, however, once overhead it causes a still air that is motionless.
The Morning Glory can also come in from other directions like the South and Southeast, if and when this happens it can cause a terrifying disturbances, to ‘cloud surfers’ and residents to the settlements local to the coast.
‘Cloud surfers’ refers to the small community of gliders that have heard of The Morning Glory and travel thousands of miles to surf the air. They arrive at small towns such as Burketown that according to the 2006 census only had 178 residents. In the month of September these avid gliders congregate on the air strip at 5am every morning hoping to see The Morning Glory on the horizon, however, it is not a certainty and many go home after waiting weeks without getting even a glimpse of the cloud. The lucky ‘cloud surfers’ of the other hand make the most of the experience.
These ‘cloud waves’ form structures over 1,000 feet high and 1,000 feet from the ground. The air surrounding the cloud is said to be still and ‘as smooth as glass’ which provides gliders the perfect lift. However, once inside the cloud, things change, the air is chaotic and turbulent that gives gliders the opportunity to be lifted up to heights of 8,000 feet. These ‘cloud surfers’ once in the cloud itself turn their engines off and ‘ride’ the cloud, doing loops and riding the front for hundreds of miles. The Morning Glory can just disappear at any point cause the wave of high pressure to vanish, with no push at all which can be turbulent and cause the glider to be tossed around.