Wave clouds rolling over Colorado's Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Wave clouds rolling over Colorado's Breckenridge Ski Resort. (Photo: @breckenridgemtn/Twitter)

At first glance, you might assume this image is the result of some elaborate Photoshop trick, but trust us, it's 100 percent real!

These bizarre, tubular clouds spotted looming over Colorado's Breckenridge Ski Resort on Oct. 30 were created by a Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, a natural phenomenon that occurs when there's a difference in velocity between two interacting fluids.

It works like this: First, air is pushed up the steep slopes of the mountain to form clouds in a process known as "orographic lift." Next, swift winds collide with those newly formed clouds, and the resulting Kelvin-Helmholtz instability causes them to curl like giant fluffy ocean waves.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.