Nessie and Noctilucent Clouds

A Meteorological Explanation for Some Loch Ness Monster Sightings


  • Oliver D. Smith Independent researcher



Since the 1930s there have been over a thousand recorded sightings of monsters in Loch Ness, Scotland. The consensus of experts is these reports of mysterious creatures (known in Scottish Highlands folklore as Nessie) have mundane or prosaic explanations such as hoaxes, wakes, mirages, misidentifications of floating objects (e.g., natural debris, boats) and known native fauna (e.g., deer, otters, diving birds), opposed to extraordinary or unusual explanations such as exotic fauna, escaped animals from traveling circuses, relict plesiosaurs and unknown or elusive species (e.g., ‘long-necked’ pinniped, giant eel). After providing an overview of the different hypotheses and a history of the search for the Loch Ness Monster – the author of this paper argues a rare meteorological phenomenon might explain some monster sightings in the loch during twilight hours between May and August – reflections of noctilucent clouds (NLCs).

Author Biography

Oliver D. Smith, Independent researcher

Oliver Smith studied BA (Hons) Classical Civilisation at the University of Roehampton and MA Classical Studies at The Open University. He later became interested in atmospheric optics and clouds, prompting him to join the Cloud Appreciation Society. His interdisciplinary publications on ancient history, folklore, meteorology, UFOs, and cryptozoology have appeared in a number of academic journals, non-scholarly magazines and newsletters including SUNlite, Fate Magazine, Sino-Platonic Papers, Athens Journal of History, The Robert Graves Review and Shima. His most recent article is ‘The Ariel School UFO: A Dust Devil?’ in which he proposes a meteorological explanation (a dust devil) for the Ariel School UFO incident.