Yesterday’s clouds…

Funny, it already seems a long time ago now…

SC at 5000 feet

Figure 1

At first I thought that this was low AC when I first saw it, which shows you what a poor observer of cloud I was in my day, but the LCBR at Exeter airport reckons the base is 5,000 feet, and I’m not going to argue with that. Feel free to tag on some extra supplementary varieties to the description such as undulatus, perlucidus (gaps between), or stratiformis.

Recent cloud images

Here are some of my recent cloud images, it’s been a bit quiet as far as my photography goes this year, we seem to have missed out on any good sunsets. Last night was an exception though, not a colourful sunset but rather a broody dark display of SC with embedded mammatus, the base of the SC sheet was at around 5,000 feet according to the LCBR at Exeter airport.

It all ties in with the cloud in the visible satellite image of the same time that’s aligned ENE-WSW across southern England (fig 1). The 18 UTC analysis has a corresponding trough following behind the warm front on the analysis (fig 2), the bottom bit of the warm front is marked frontolysis by the Met Office no doubt because there is no cloud on it west of 1° east. There were some showery outbreaks of rain along the trough yesterday evening, so there must have been some instability associated with it as it moved SSE ‘ward (fig 3).

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the Met Office & EUMETSAT

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Figure 3 – Courtesy of the Met Office

3D solar halo

 Image Credit & Copyright: Alexandros Maragos

I noticed this very interesting photograph of a solar halo in cirrostratus with a condensation trail running through it on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

The asperitas fall out

Figure 1 – Looking northeast from Bradninch (1046 UTC on 27 Aug 2016)

Suddenly people are reading that a new type of cloud asperitas has arrived on the scene, I even wrote a bit about it this week. Some people have now also started to think (if this article in the Guardian is anything to go by) that global warming has now produced many more exotic cloud types that have never been classified. I suppose as a cloud lover this should be good news to me, it’s making people more aware of clouds, in fact it’s popularising clouds, but to an old curmudgeon like me that’s not good news. It seems that popularising things that were once ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ things to do just seems to have followed me through life. Here are a few of the things that I liked doing have now become ‘popular’ things to do:

  • Observing and photographing clouds and cloudscapes since I first got an Kodak Instamatic in 1970.
  • Programming – I wrote my first program, tic-tac-toe, in 1975 on the Sheffield Polytechnic main frame.
  • Long distance walking – We attempted, but never finished the Pennine way in 1978 for our honeymoon!
  • Computers – I started with a BBC model B in 1983 and it’s been downhill from there.
  • Hi Fi – We bought separate Akai amplifier, tuner and tape deck in 1985, along with Wharfedale speakers and Pioneer record deck.
  • Mountain Biking – We got our first ‘Muddy Foxes’ in 1987  and turned a few heads in Forres where we then lived.
  • Munroing – I bagged 130 Munros between 1990 and 1995.
  • Climate, but more especially climate change we now have so many experts.

You will probably think this is a remarkably churlish attitude to take, which I can’t deny, but there seems few pastimes or hobbies left to me these days that haven’t been ‘popularised’, and I haven’t even mentioned the programs on TV that have done their bit to ‘popularise’ DIY, gardening, cooking, sewing, baking, pottery, decorating, painting, travel, design etc. I think that I still have one or two passions that haven’t been popularised to any great extent (and I won’t even mention them just in case someone’s listening), but I’m sure that given time it won’t be long before they are also assimilated into the collective. I suppose with the speed of innovation these days, and the fact that there are now 7,493,150,887 of us on the planet (as of 0937 UTC on the 25th of March 2017), some of them with more leisure time than is good for them, popularising of our pastimes is just an inevitability.

I have a number of very decent digital SLR cameras, and the latest a Canon 6D takes what’s best described as very dramatic cloud images, which I love. But if you check the result immediately with reality, you will quickly see the image is not a faithful reproduction, the chip in the camera has sharpened and enhanced the colours, making the image much more dramatic than it really is. If I take the same image with my older Canon camera, a 5D, the image is very close to reality, and in truth a little bit boring. I like dramatic and of course use images from the 6D rather than the 5D because I know they will prove more ‘popular’ to my audience. It’s my belief that the rise in popularity in cloud photography, and the arrival of this new cloud type asperitas, coincides with the massive increase in mega pixel cameras (and their processing chip) that are built into today’s smartphones.

Just in case you were wondering, the top image (fig 1) which may resemble asperitas isn’t, and the reason I say that so confidently, is that here in Mid-Devon we are lucky to find ourselves less than 15 kilometers from two automatic weather stations both equipped with laser cloud base recorders, which report hourly SYNOP observations. As a retired weather observer this cloud almost fooled me, but I knew from observations at Exeter airport and Dunkeswell, that I was looking at a main layer with a base between 3,800 and 4,500 feet. This cloud was in fact stratocumulus and not asperitas, even with it’s undulating wave-like appearance. I’m just using this as an example that cloud sometimes, and more often than you would think, can fool us. I am not saying that asperitas doesn’t exist, it most obviously does, and I may have caught a couple of examples with my digital camera (6D) of it over the years (fig 2 & 3). The evidence across the southwest on that day from the observations, is that there was a good deal of medium level cloud with a base between 9 and 12 thousand feet.

Figure 2 – looking west (1405 UTC on 23 Aug 2013)

Figure 3 – looking northeast (1405 UTC on 23 Aug 2013)

BBC News: ‘New’ wave-like cloud finally wins official recognition

© Courtesy of Gary McArthur and the BBC

I saw that the ‘New’ wave-like cloud asperitas has finally won official recognition on the BBC News. All we’ve got to work out what its exact name is when we see it, apparently its now just called plain asperitas, which is a shame, because undulatus asperatus does have more of a ring to it.

Undulatus asperatus above Tallinn – Courtesy of Ave Maria Mõistlik and Wikipedia



Cumulonimbus capillatus

Image 1 – A couple of cumulonimbus capillatus clouds to the south late this afternoon

An April showers kind of day in late February, the weather is in a very cold and cyclonic state at the moment.

Image 2 – Courtesy of NASA


Overflows of angel hair…

Both sides now – Joni Mitchell

Overflows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

I was amazed to find that most web lyric sites have the first line of Joni Mitchell’s song “Both sides now” starting “Rows and flows of angels hair…”. But that just doesn’t sound quite right to me, so I changed it! But one thing that I am certain of, is that whenever I see any cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud lit up by the sun late in the afternoon or evening, it always reminds me of the beautiful words in the first verse of Both side now.


Seems a long time since we’ve seen convective skies such as they’ve been today in our part of Devon.

Courtesy of the Met Office and EUMETSAT

BBC News: Spectacular cloud photographed over Australia

Courtesy of the BBC

I saw this spectacular cloud photographed over Australia on the BBC news and thought that you might like to see it.