There are many types of clouds in the sky. Unless you are a serious cloud-spotter, it helps to just know the main few. In 1803 clouds were divided into three categories by London amateur meteorologist Luke Howard:
- Cirrus (Latin for ‘a curl of hair’, these are made of ice crystals and look like white hair (the whispy easy-to-spot clouds often appearing before stormy weather).
- Cumulo (these usually sit alone in the sky like big balls of fluffy cotton wool. They usually are very dense and flat.
- Strato (from the Latin word for ‘layer)’, these are big broad clouds and usually found above warm fronts.
- Nimbus (the Latin word for rain) are as they sound, combining all three types and the tallest clouds of all.
Clouds can also be dangerous. In 2007, a paraglider was literally ‘sucked up’ into a cloud and only came around from being unconscious an hour later, just in time to land. When she fell to erth, she was covered in bruises (and ice due to the hailstones in the cloud).
So which places on earth have the least and most clouds? The least is the desert region of Egypt and Saudi Arabia (because sand blowing around blocks the sun, so reduces daylight hours). The most cloudy place is Tórshavn (capital of the Faroe Islands – just 180 miles from notoriously windy Shetland Isles in the Scottish Islands. The temperatures are actually pretty mild, but the Icelandic Low brings stormy weather. In the UK, the cloudiest city title goes to Glasgow.
England is full of clouds, most of them ready to drop some rain! These tiny drops of water rise with warm air to form clouds (they appear white, due to reflecting light from the sun – which is why they are grey before it rains) have fascinated people throughout history. Fog is simply ‘clouds on the ground’. And did you know that clouds on Jupiter and Saturn are made of ammonia? The clouds tend to get less, the further south you go. So the most cloudy areas are Yorkshire and surrounding, and the least cloudy the sunshine coast (Sussex, Hampshire etc).
Gavin’s great books on clouds
Gavin’s great books on clouds are by England’s top expert. Gavin Pretor-Pinney studied at Oxford University, then founded the Cloud Appreciation Society, which has its own manifesto (below) on the beauty and importance of clouds. And consider it’s always raining in England and we all love to look up at clouds, it’s no surprise he’s one of our best-selling writers. He is author of a few books on clouds:
- A Cloud A Day is a beautifully illustrated guide featuring 365 skies selected by members of the Cloud Appreciation Society, with photos by sky enthusiasts, satellite images and photographs of clouds in space, as well as skies from great artists over the centuries. Includes poems about clouds.
- Cloud Spotter is a set of of 50 cards. You can carry them around with you, then pause and look up at the sky, when you want to know more. Not just for knowledge, but an ideal ‘mindful break’ to stop off from our modern busy world. Do you know your cirrostratus from your cumulonimbus? How long do you spend with your head in the clouds?
- A Cloud a Day Journal is an interactive journal for readers to take time each day, to look at the shifting skies. Take a moment and use the prompts and space in the journal to record the cloud, weather and thoughts for the day. The book includes a fun pin wheel device at the back to visually match the cloud you see in the sky, with the cloud on the selector. Includes stunning images of clouds and poetry.
Cloud Appreciation Society’s manifesto
WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.
We think that they are Nature’s poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them.
We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’
Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony
Clouds are expressions of the atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like a person’s countenance.
We believe that clouds are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save money on therapy.
And so we say to all who’ll listen: Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and always remember to live life with your head in the clouds!
the story of a bashful cloud!
Kumo is a lovely story by Kyo Maclear about a bashful cloud, whose only wish is to float unseen. When she’s assigned cloud duty for the day, she feels overwhelmed by self-doubt and her fear of being noticed. But after learning that closing your eyes isn’t a good solution to your troubles, Kumo pulls her fluff together and does her duties – drifting, releasing rain and providing shelter.
She meets some new friends along the way and inspires the imagination (and captures the heart) of a small daydreamer like her. A sweetly humorous and lyrical parable, which shows it’s fine to be shy!
Kyo Maclear is one of the world’s most popular children’s writers. Born in London, she moved to Canada age 4 with her British father and Japanese mother. Her books have been translated into 15 languages and gained many nominations for children’s literature.