‘Mammatus Clouds in South Dakota’ Viral Pic
On July 6 2022, news and photographs of green clouds and a green sky in South Dakota began circulating, only to be followed on July 10 2022 by another image of green clouds over an abandoned house in South Dakota:
Mammatus clouds over an abandoned house in South Dakota (Photo by Aaron Groen) from interestingasfuck
In an article published on July 6 2022, the New York Times reported on the striking green sky (and social media’s fascination with it):
But before the derecho (pronounced deh-REY-cho) hit Sioux Falls, S.D., the storm caused the skies to turn green, an unusual weather phenomenon. Many people on social media shared images of the green skies, which were also captured on South Dakota Department of Transportation traffic cameras.
“I think it caught a lot of people’s attention because the sky did have that very unique green color to it,” said Peter Rogers, a meteorologist with the Weather Service’s office in Sioux Falls. “Because of the unique color that it did exhibit, I’m guessing that it will probably be a topic of discussion for quite a long time.”
A July 10 2022 Tumblr post on the topic spread virally. It featured news images of the green sky in South Dakota alongside the “abandoned house” photograph — captioned “More pics from that day”:
A version shared to Facebook on July 10 2022 didn’t caption the image as necessarily related to that particular derecho. It too wass wildly popular and shared tens of thousands of times.
However, a reverse image search demonstrated that the photograph of a house under a green sky of mammatus clouds was not captured during the July 2022 derecho. It was shared to Reddit’s r/pics on September 16 2020, with a title comparing it to imagery from the cartoon series Courage the Cowardly Dog:
These clouds over this abandoned house look like they’re out of Courage the Cowardly Dog from pics
Some versions credited a photographer, Aaron J. Groen. Groen published his work to a subdomain on pixels.com, saying that the image was captured on September 13 2020.
Groen’s pixels.com profile linked to a Facebook page for his photography, where the same image was pinned to the top of the page (also uploaded on September 13 2020). Facebook sorted comments by “Most Relevant” by default; switching to “Most Recent” uncovered the following exchange about whether the image was enhanced:
In that exchange, a fellow photographer asked Groen if the clouds were “really as green as a Granny Smith apple.” In response, Groen simply said “yep.”
After a derecho in early July 2022 briefly turned the skies over South Dakota green, a photograph of an abandoned house against a green sky circulated as another image from that day. The image was captured and published by photographer Aaron J. Groen on September 13 2020, and it was unrelated to the July 2022 derecho.