Wednesday, 27 May 2009

It's good to see that people are interested in clouds again

I’m not sure that I quite understand what is at the heart of the sudden resurgence of interest in clouds, but it’s good news and Gavin Pretor-Pinney is surely part of the answer. Gavin set up the Cloud Appreciation Society and wrote his great book ‘The CloudSpotter’s Guide’ – and he seems really to have caught the public’s interest. I don’t often recommend things to people but out of all the recent books on clouds (and there are a few excellent ones for the coffee table) I very much enjoyed Gavin’s, and so did my wife (who never reads anything related to the weather as a matter of principle!). We are both looking forward to his new book coming out soon (

Clouds are truly fascinating things, whether you are a student of physics or just a casual admirer. To a trained eye they can tell you a lot about what’s happening in the atmosphere and to an untrained eye there is a lot to enjoy about the aesthetics of how something as simple as water can create such beauty. Clouds have deep cultural references in our society; they have inspired paintings, poetry, and yet we somehow seem to have lost touch with them.

If you are a sailor or a pilot you probably keep a close eye on what the clouds are doing, but most of us don’t pay, much attention at all. In times gone by when many of us spent more of our working day outside we would read the clouds as a way of knowing what to expect for the day and possibly the next. But over the generations we’ve become more detached from the environment around us. However there is no excuse; so come on teachers, take those children out of the classroom for half an hour and teach them to look up and record what they see – you can even send me a note about it here at the Society and we’ll put in on our website.

Over recent days there has been a lot of news coverage about the naming of a new cloud variety – something which hasn’t happened for over 50 years – and the name being proposed is ‘Aspiratus’, which I think is quite appropriate if you look at the images of these clouds (

Clouds are one of the few things that are free for all of us to enjoy. When was the last time that you spent a spare 5 minutes and just looked skyward?

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