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Mammatus (also known as mammatocumulus, meaning "bumpy clouds") is a meteorological term applied to a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud. The name "mammatus" is derived from the Latin mamma (udder), due to the resemblance between the shape of these clouds and the breast of a woman.
It is already quite obvious that a large range of types of mammatus clouds exist, each with distinct properties and in distinct environments. Accordingly, there are multiple hypothesized formation mechanisms. Each is discussed below, but each focuses on proposed formation of mammatus in cumulonimbus anvil clouds specifically. Many of these mechanisms shed light on formation in other cloud forms, but they will not be discussed further.
Despite varying hypothesized formation mechanisms, there is one environmental trend that remains common through all of the formation mechanisms; that is, that across the anvil cloud/sub-cloud air boundary there exist sharp gradients in temperature, moisture and momentum (wind shear), which strongly influence interactions therein. The following are the proposed mechanisms, each described with its shortcomings: