Clouds, Events, Meteorology

On cloud nine: Part 2

Welcome back! In Part 1 we discussed cloud classification, and if that caught your interest, let me introduce the Cloud Appreciation Society! These guys are an international organisation of about 36,000 cloud nerds, who love to paint clouds, write poetry about them, take photos and videos and just lie back and watch them – they even name a cloud of the month!

It was started by Gavin Pretor-Pinney who joked that a lecture he gave at a Cornwall literary festival in 2004 was The Inaugural Lecture of the Cloud Appreciation Society, though no such society existed. He received so much positive feedback that the following year he started the group for real. And in 2006 the C. A. S. received this image from Don Sanderson in Iowa of a very unusual cloud:


This cloud could not be classified into one of the groups mentioned on the previous post. Over the years, many more examples of these strange, turbulent clouds were photographed, but no one knew how to classify them. There was a term, ‘undulus,’ for wavy clouds, but these looked very different. Here’s a photo of undulus clouds taken by Emily Painter in Virginia:


So, in 2008, the Cloud Appreciation Society proposed that a new cloud type be formally added to the classification of clouds, and they suggested the name ‘asperatus,’ the Latin for ‘roughened.’ They were helped by graduate student Graeme Anderson at the University of Reading, who dedicated his final paper to the topic.

As mentioned in the previous post, the first cloud classification system was written in 1803 and has barely changed since the first Cloud Atlas was published in 1896. It has become the world standard and the World Meteorological Oganization does not change it lightly, stating: “if a standard has been properly done and well written out, it should stand the test of time and place.”

However, at their 17th Congress this year, it was announced that the cloud shown above would officially become a new cloud type when it is included in the next edition of their International Cloud Atlas in 2016. It is the first new cloud type since cirrus intortus – meaning interlaced, twisted, or wound – was designated in 1951 (see image below).

Cirrus intortus

The name of the new cloud has been slightly tweaked to  ‘asperitas,’ meaning roughness, to reflect the fact that it’s being included as a supplementary feature in the section of the classification which uses Latin nouns.

Check out this mesmerizing time-lapse video by Lawrence Dyke of the newly-named asperitas clouds over Greenland:

What would you name a new cloud type?



One thought on “On cloud nine: Part 2

  1. Pingback: On cloud nine: Part 1 | Whether the weather be fine

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