Cloud Appreciation

Clouds influence the lives of humans on a daily basis yet it is so common that they are overlooked and under appreciated. Today I Googled “cloud” and my search turned up hundreds of articles about “icloud”, “cloud computing”, and “cloud storage”.

We sensationalize the enigmatic nature of these fluffy objects by naming our computer software after them. However, for most Canadians, our cloud education ends after grade school. Luckily, that does not mean we cannot return to appreciate clouds later on in life.

The term “cloud” is defined in the Marriam-Webster English Dictionary as a visible mass of particles of condensed vapour (as water or ice) suspended in the atmosphere of a planet (as the earth) or moon.

I have assembled a brief list of cloud genera to refresh my fellow colleagues and peers:

Cloud Basics:

There are three levels of common clouds to know: high clouds, mid clouds, and low clouds.

High clouds include:

1. Cirrus

-detached, white filaments

-mostly in patches or bands

-composed of ice crystals

2. Cirrostratus

-smooth, hair-like appearance

– transparent and covers most of the sky

3. Cirrocumulus

-layered thin clouds

-appearance of grains or ripples in the texture

Mid clouds include:

1. Altostratus

-striated or fibrous clouds that cover most of the sky

-dark grey or blue in colour

-occasionally reveals the sun

Altostratus translucidus over Hong Kong, China in May.

2. Altocumulus

-layered clouds in the form of round masses or rolls

– may be fibrous or diffuse

-white and/or grey in colour

3. Nimbostratus

-diffuse cloud base

-dark grey, often recognized as a rain cloud

-thick enough to block the sun

Low clouds include:

1. Cumulus

-dense with sharp outlines

-develop vertically

-sections that light hits are bright white, the rest is grey

2. Cumulonimbus

-upper portion smooth and fibrous

-dense, appears in the form of a mountain

3. Stratus

-grey with a uniform base

-produces drizzle, ice grains, and snow prisms

Stratus cloud

4. Stratocumulus

-patchy clouds with dark tessellations

-rounded masses or rolls

 Aerial photograph of Stratocumulus perlucidus clouds over the midwestern United States


As I was refreshing my knowledge of clouds, I happened upon this very interesting blog post on rare cloud formations. When you start to appreciate clouds, your world becomes more enriched. Identify a cloud the next time you are outside!

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