Cloud Appreciation 101

Cloud Appreciation 101
cumulus clouds

Cloud appreciation is an art we can all practice. Who hasn’t  admired the clouds on a summer afternoon and imagined castles, dragons, Godzilla?

Perhaps you see a fleet of ships crossing the sky, or maybe a school of cloudfish?

This is free association. Anyone can do it, and the equipment required is minimal–only your mind. Let your mind wander among the clouds, and the possibilities are as open as the sky.

For this exercise in imagination, you don’t even need to know what kind of clouds they are, really.

But you do know these clouds. These puffy, rounded  forms are the clouds of childhood, the first clouds we draw pictures of.  They are the classic cloud shape that inspired the  iCloud logo. These are the fair-weather cumulus clouds of a perfect summer day.

Cumulus clouds are one of the three basic cloud forms. (The other two  are cirrus and stratus.)  defines cumulus clouds this way—

  • Low clouds that develop from the bottom up.
  • They have flat bases and dome or cauliflower-shaped upper surfaces.
  • The base of the cloud is often no more than 3,000 feet above the ground, but the top often varies in height.
  • Small, separate cumulus are associated with fair weather (cumulus humilis).
  • With additional heating from the earth’s surface, they can grow vertically throughout the day. The top of such a cloud can easily reach 20,000 feet or more into the troposphere.
  • Under certain atmospheric conditions, these clouds can develop into larger clouds, known as towering cumulus (cumulus congestus), and may produce a rain shower.
  • Further development may create a cumulonimbus.

See that classic cauliflower top?  That’s the  fair-weather cumulus. That towering cloud that looks like Godzilla could be a cumulus congestus.  And those dark clouds thundering by like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?  Those are cumulonimbus clouds!

There are so many varieties and forms of clouds. This is just a start. Did you know there is a an organization devoted to the observation and appreciation of different clouds all over the world?

Here is the website for the Cloud Appreciation Society, where  you can  discover  all kinds of information and resources if you want to find out more.

I know I do, and I hope you’ll join me in some cloud appreciation. What do you see in the clouds?

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  • I finished not too long ago listening to 24 lectures of a meteorology course from the Great Courses. The professor was Robert Fovell out of the University of California. He made the subject truly fascinating and worthwhile. He covered cloud formation and types and said cloud dynamics was his specialty. I strongly recommend his course if one's understanding of weather and climate is a bit clouded, Fovell will definitely clear the air.

    Nice blog, WG.

  • Thank you AW, as always, for your kind and generous comments. Indeed, clouds and weather are fascinating. That course sounds really great! Do you think I could find it at the library???

    The Cloud Appreciation Society is a wonderful website, too.

    Wishing you blue sky above clouds, today--thanks again

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