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Three nearly identical, UFO-like cloud formations recently appeared over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, sparking online discussions linking the features to everything from the Second Coming to recent mass bird deaths to secret military experiments. At least one scientist believes the so-called hole-punch clouds have a military explanation, though it may not be quite what conspiracy theorists expect.

On January 7, IT technician Wesley Tyler was running out to his car for a computer part when he noticed the saucer-like formations. (See other cloud pictures.)

"At first we thought they were tornado clouds, but the air was so still—like mausoleum still," Tyler said. "You just knew it was unusual. I've lived on the beach for years and never seen anything like that." Back home, he uploaded pictures of the clouds to Facebook, tagging a meteorologist friend, who later identified the phenomena as hole-punch clouds, or punch-hole clouds. Hole-punch clouds are miniature snowstorms that can occur in thin, subfreezing cloud layers.

Hole-punch clouds are a rare meteorological phenomenon.  But they seem to be markedly increasing in frequency lately. To read the rest of the article, click here.