Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Kind Of Cloud Is That? Thursday 4th June, 2015. Corpus Christi

What Kind of Cloud is That?

Wind-blown cumulus clouds (cumulus fractus, cumulus humilis, cumulus congestus)-Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.




    The study of clouds is one of the most fascinating aspects of meteorology, and even a person who has no knowledge of the physics behind cloud formation can derive immense pleasure from an examination of the infinite forms which clouds take.

Cloud forms clearly reflect the physical processes which are taking place in the atmosphere, and are therefore obvious indicators of weather conditions.

Briefly, clouds are caused mainly by the adiabatic cooling of air below its dew point;  this cooling process is most effectively created by upward movements of air, which in turn produce reduction in pressure.   The various types of cloud and their associated precipitation can then be accounted for largely  by the various forms of upward motion, but clouds may be formed to a lesser degree by horizontal movement of air masses, and even rapid reducton of pressure:

1.   Convection

Convection occurs in the atmosphere when it is heated at the earth's surface, either by being warmed in sunshine or when cool air flows into warmer regions.   Large volumes of air rise from the surface layers and penetrate into and mix with the cooler air above, and once this rising air is cooled below its saturation point, the water in it condenses to form clouds.[cumulus type clouds]


          Large cumulus congestus cloud build-ups.  Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z. [cloud tops around 12,000 ft - 14,000 ft]

2.   Orographic Uplift or Forced Ascent

Air ascending over hills or mountains, cause the air to cool and subsequently the water vapor condenses to form clouds.  On the lee-ward side of a hill or mountain range the air warms up and the cloud droplets evaporate. [altocumulus lenticular type clouds]


  Altocumulus/Altostratus cloud (between 12,000ft and 16,000ft), form in Nor'west conditions as warm air descends on the leeward side of the Southern Alps, resulting in spectacular sunsets - New Brighton, Christchurch. N.Z.


3.   General Uplift Over Wide Areas or Large Scale Ascent


In cyclonic storms and bad-weather systems, like frontal systems ( cold and warm fronts etc.,), the air throughout the troposphere rises slowly over regions hundreds of miles/kilometers across.     This ascent produces layer clouds at several levels [cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus, altostratus, nimbostratus,  chiefly]



4.   Passage over a Cold Surface

When air rests on a cooling surface, for example the ground on a clear calm night, dew may be deposited.   However, even in hardly perceptible winds there is enough stirring to spread the cooling upwards over a layer of air, and a fog may form.    Extensive sea fogs are produced in a similar way when tropical air moves over the cool ocean in temperate latitudes.

In string winds the vigorous stirring spreads the cooling upwards over a layer a few hundred meters deep and the greatest chilling may occur near the top of this layer, so that layer cloud [stratus] forms above the ground.

Fragmentary clouds ('scud' or fracto-stratus) are often produced by stirring motions in air near the ground which has been moistened by evaporation of rain falling through it.



         Fog - Avon River, New Brighton, Christchurch

 5.    If damp air masses at different temperatures are mixed, the mixture may become saturated and produce cloud.    This is how a cloud forms in the breath on frosty mornings, (or even when the temperature drops below 10 deg C , usually).   


In the atmosphere this process is rarely important in the formation of natural clouds, for the temperature differences between neighbouring  air masses are too small unless both air masses have been brought almost to saturation by some other process.   It is responsible, however for the wispy clouds which form in shallow layers of cold air which are strongly heated when flowing across warm water.  These clouds are encountered mainly near ice-sheets and cold polar shores of polar seas, where they are known as 'arctic sea-smoke,' but may also be noticed inland when strong sunshine heats the ground wetted by a recent shower, or when air which overnight has been chilled close to the ground flows down slope and across the warmer waters of lakes and streams.

The process frequently causes artificial cloud formation when exhaust from an aircraft engine(which contains a large proportion of water vapour) mixes into air with a temperature below about -38deg C.   High flying aircraft are therefore often seen making condensation trails.


Contrail (around 20,000 ft) formed in clear air by high flying aircraft. New Brighton, Christchurch

Contrail from high flying aircraft (17,000ft -20,000ft) illuminated by setting sun - Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.

 6.   Rapid Local  Reduction of Pressure.

A rapid reduction of pressure, with a consequent expansion and chilling, can occur in violent rotating motion, and causes the funnel clouds of tornadoes and water spouts.   Clouds can sometimes be seen in the vortices which trail from aircraft  wings.


*                *                *                *                 *


The Names of Clouds (Cloud Classification)


Initially proposed by a London pharmacist, Luke Howard, in 1803, meteorologists use an international agreed classification for cloud names based on Latin words. 


 Cloud Families

He called a sheet cloud stratus (a layer), a heap cloud cumulus (a pile), and a streak cloud cirrus (a hair).   


With these was nimbus, the rain cloud, but this word is now only used in the composite names nimbostratus, a raining cloud sheet, and cumulonimbus, a raining heap cloud ( shower cloud).


Cloud Species

By further combinations we have cirrostratus, a layer of streak clouds, and stratocumulus, a lumpy or patterned layer cloud.

Similarly, we have cirrocumulus, which are lumpy or billowy clouds amongst streak clouds.

Two recent additions are altostratus, a diffuse sheet cloud in the middle troposphere, and, altocumulus, a dappled or billowy cloud at similar levels.


Cloud Varieties

Some varieties of these clouds species are recognized, of which the most important are lenticularis, clouds in oval or lens shapes, and castellanus, miniature cumulus clouds in the middle troposphere.

Small fragmentary clouds amongst cumulus are called cumulus fractus, and similar, very low clouds which occur in rain and on the fringes of storms ('scud' clouds) are called stratus fractus.

  [ more info coming for this section] the meantime...time for a cup o ...



Clouds are classified into three families: high clouds, middle clouds, and low clouds.


 High Clouds are composed almost entirely of tiny ice crystals, with their bases averaging above 20,00ft above the earth, with their upper level up to 40,000 ft.    There are three types of high cloud:


Cirrus clouds ( Ci ) usually form at 25,000 ft and higher; they are thin wispy and detached with delicate and fibrous structure, and composed entirely of ice crystals, where temperatures are well below freezing point, (around - 40 deg C)    They sometimes indicate a change in the weather several days ahead.    These clouds are frequently blown about into feathery strands called "mares' tails."


           Cirrus spissatus (betwen 20,000 ft - 25,000 ft)

             Cirrus spissatus with cirrocumulus floccus

Cirrus uncinus in the form of "mare's tails" around 25,000 ft

Dense cirrus radiatus (20,000 ft-25,000 ft )-  Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.

Cirrocumulus clouds (Cc) generally form at 20,000 to 25,000 ft., and are rarely seen.   They are thin, patchy clouds often forming wavelike patterns, and are referred to as "mackerel sky,"  and too thin to show shadows. The presence of cirrocumulus clouds heralds approaching rain, although usually not wet for very long, but also not fine for very long, either!


Cirrocumulus with fine ripples like wind blown sand visible and referred to as a "mackerel sky"


Cirrostratus (Cs) clouds form at the same altitude as cirrocumulus.   They are thin sheets which can cover the whole sky, and are composed of ice crystals, and give a milky appearance to the sky.   Because they are made up of ice crystals; they give rise to halos around the sun and moon, which forecast approaching rain (75% of the time).

Cirrostratus with halo around the sun with reddish color on the inside and yellow on the outside of halo

Solar Halo visible through a veil of cirrostratus with fracto-cumulus present


Middle Clouds are basically stratus or cumulus type clouds with their bases are around 7000ft and mean upper level around 20,000 ft.   They are composed mostly of water vapour.


There are two types of middle cloud:

Altocumulus (Ac) clouds are layers, or patches of cloud composed of thin flakes or flattened globular masses which are arranged in lines or waves. Shadows may or not be noticeable.   Through altocumulus clouds, the sun may produce a corona or disk, generally pale blue or yellow inside, and reddish on the outside.  When they appear in several layers it is usually not a good weather sign.

Altostratus (As) clouds are usually in a uniform sheet, more or less grey in color, and resembles thick cirrostratus and often merges with it.   The sun is barely visible through altostratus cloud, and it may proceed  nimbostratus rain cloud in certain conditions.

        Altostratus (around 17,000ft) with patches of altocumulus create a colorful sunset


Low Clouds have bases that range in height from near sea level to around 6,500 ft.   There are five main types:


Stratus (St) clouds are a low quite uniform sheet which resembles fog, but which is above ground level.   Only fine drizzle can fall from stratus clouds, because there is little or no vertical movement in them.

Low level stratus on hills barely 100 ft above observer - Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.


           Low stratus clouds (around 1200 ft) forming shortly after sunrise show irisation or iridescence (mainly pale green and pink along edges)

     Early morning stratus fractus with iridescence around edges

Stratocumulus (Sc) clouds are irregular masses of clouds spread out in a regular rolling or puffy layer.  Grey with dark shading they do not produce rain but can merge into nimbostratus (Ns) which do.


          Stratocumulus and Cumulus at different levels - [Stratocumulus perlucidus around 6000 ft and Cumulus humilis around 1500-2000  ft.  - Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.]


      Extensive cloud cover of stratocumulus perlucidus around 6000 ft



          Stratocumulus radiatus in bands - cloud base about 6000 ft invades the sky



   Stratocumulus radiatus in bands invades the sky - Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.




  Stratocumulus radiatus with fractostratus and stratus (about 1500 ft) near horizon - Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.


 Cumulus congestus (2000ft) and Stratocumulus cumulogenitus ( 6000 ft) - formed by spreading out of cumulus cloud tops as they reach stable layer of air )


  Cumulus and stratocumulus clouds at different levels (as described above)



     Stratocumulus lenticularis (6500 ft) and cumulus humilis (3000 ft)

   Stratocumulus lenticularis - Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.



    Shallow layer of stratocumulus opacus partially obscures Mt. Ruapehu

           Stratocumulus opacus- Mt. Ruapehu from Desert Road, North Island, N.Z.


Nimbostratus (Ns) clouds are dense rainy layer of cloud, dark grey in color and with a uniform texture.  They are the true rain clouds.   They are often accompanied by low scud clouds ( fractostratus ) when the wind is strong.


Cumulus (Cu) clouds are puffy, cauliflower-like with constantly changing shapes.    Over land cumulus usually form by day in rising warm air, and disappear at night.   They mean fair weather, unless they pile up into cumulonimbus clouds.


        Cumulus mediocris are short-lived clouds, ceaselessly forming, growing, and dissolving, soon to be  replaced by others as air between them is kept rather dry by slow sinking motion.


Animation of cumulus fractus, cumulus humilis, cumulus mediocris and cumulus congestus clouds forming and dissolving 

  Large towering cumulus clouds (cumulus congestus) with cloud base around 3500-4000 ft and cloud tops around 8000 ft - Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.

Cumulonimbus (Cb) clouds are the familiar thunderheads, with great vertical development whose tops have a fibrous nature and often spread out in the form of an anvil.   They are frequently accompanied by thunder and hail.  These clouds can also produce tornadoes. 


 Cumulonimbus cloud base with accompanying thunderstorm Waiouru, Central North Island, N.Z.

Hail shower falling from cumulonimbus incus cloud - New Brighton, Christchurch, N.Z.

Approaching cumulonimbus incus with characteristic glaciated top (cloud base about 3000ft, tops above 15,000ft) ... ['Mr. Burns' ?]



 Cumulonimbus incus with top starting to glaciate -Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt, N.Z.   (base around 3500 ft with tops around 20,000 ft)


Cumulonimbus incus (cloud top around 15,000 ft -18,000 ft) with classic icy anvil spreading outwards at the top of cloud - New Brighton, Christchurch, N.Z. [ hail shower is clearly visible]




Other Cloud Related Phenomena:




 Rainbow showing both primary and secondary bows, in showery weather as sun reflects on falling water droplets.  Cumulus and cumulonimbus. Colors are reversed in the secondary bow.  Stokes Valley, Lower Hut, N.Z.



Crepuscular rays

Sun shining behind towering cumulus congestus cloud top produces watery rays which suggest the sun is drawing water.   Glen Eden, Auckland, N.Z.



Mock sun or sundog


 Sunlight refracted through altocumus floccus clouds produces a mock sun or a 'sundog' at the same elevation as the sun, when sun is at a low elevation in the sky.  New Brighton, Christchurch, N.Z.


 Sundog or mock sun in altocumulus floccus and altocumulus perlucidus  clouds.  New Brighton, Christchurch, N.Z.


Iridescence or Irisation

 Altocumulus lenticularis (10,000 ft - 12,000ft) showing iridescence along top edge; Cumulus congestus (2000 ft) and stratocumulus opacus (6500 ft) at bottom third of picture

Cumulus congestus and altocumulus lenticularis showing iridescence along top edge of cloud

 Cumulus congestus with altocumulus lenticularis with Iridescence





 Sky Color, Sunsets and Weather Lore in Forecasting

The color of the sky, type of sunsets, can be useful tools in forecasting future weather conditions.

A dark blue sky with sharply outlined clouds, can often be a forerunner of stormy weather, whereas a soft, light blue means settled weather.

Threatening cumulonimbus clouds sharply outlined in a dark blue sky


In showery weather, the presence of green between clouds indicates a continuation of showery weather interspersed with sunny intervals.


The  presence of green may also be observed in approaching cumulonimbus clouds associated with thunderstorms, and can indicate potential for large hail stones.


Yellow is one of the worst colors, especially at sunset, and is a forerunner of storm, gales and rain, not necessarily on the next day, but sometimes 36 hours ahead.


 Yellow sky at sunset denotes rain and gales on the way

Yellow sky forecasts rain and gales on the way within 24 hours



Red can be a very misleading color, as it is associated with both fine and foul weather.

A red sky over the western sky at sunset, evenly diffused, means a fine tomorrow, and the same holds good if the red is in long narrow streaks drawn across the setting sun, and as the proverb or the saying goes:  


         Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning;

                  Red sky at night, shepherd's delight



     Red sky denotes fine sunset


    Even red sunset glow indicates fine weather

    Clear red hue of a fine sunset sky



A fine weather sunset in western sky with red glow along the horizon



But if the red is reflected on lower ragged clouds, especially if the glow spreads right across the sky towards the east, then very stormy weather may be expected.

 Red sky extends too far over the sky to promise fine weather, and was followed by gales overnight and in the morning with rain and showers by 10am the next day right through until 3pm that afternoon.

Red sky indicative of unsettled stormy weather the next day, with gales  setting in during the night and rain and showers the next day

Red is also a bad sign in the eastern sky at dawn.


Signs of Rain

Dr. Edward Jenner, 1749-1823

The hollow winds begin to blow,

The clouds look black, the glass is low,

The soot falls down, the spaniels sleep

And spiders from their cobwebs peep.

Last night the sun went pale to bed,

The moon in halos hid her head;

The boding shepherd heaves a sigh,

For see!  A rainbow spans the sky.

The walls are damp, the ditches smell,

Closed is the pink-eyed pimpernel.

Hark!  How the chairs and tables crack,

Old Betty's joints are on the rack;

Her corns with shooting pains torment her,

And to her bed untimely send her.

Loud quack the ducks, the peacocks cry,

The distant hills are looking nigh.

How restless are the snorting swine!

The busy flies disturb the kine.

Low o'er the grass the swallow wings;

The cricket, too, how sharp he sings!

Puss on the hearth, with velvet paws,

Sits wiping o'er her whiskered jaws.

Through the clear stream the fishes rise,

And nimbly catch the incautious flies.

The glow-worms, numerous and bright,

Illumed the woodland dell last night.

At dusk the squalid toad was seen

Hopping and crawling o'er the green.

The whirling dust the wind obeys,

And in the rapid eddy plays.

The frog has changed his yellow vest,

And in a russet coat is dressed.

Though June, the air is cold and still,

The mellow blackbirds note is shrill;

My dog, so altered in his taste,

Quits mutton bones on grass to feast.

And see, yon rooks, how odd their flight,

They imitate the gliding kite,

And seem precipitate to fall,

As if they felt the piercing ball.

"Twill surely rain - I see with sorrow

Our jaunt must be put off tomorrow.



Cloud Study: F.H. Ludlam, D.I.C., F.R. Met. S. and R.S.Scorer, M.A. Ph.D., F.R. Met.S.

Instant Weather Forecasting: Alan Watts, Meteorologist

Meteorology and Climatology for Sixth Forms:  Ernest S. Gates D.F.C. M.A. F.R.G.S.

The Observers Book of Weather:  Reginald M. Lester, F.R. Met. Soc.


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Link here for "Remembering the 7.1 Earthquake "  - 4th Anniversary of the 7.1 mag. 4 September, 2010 Earthquake, which started off the whole scenario! ...



Watch the Video: 

Ants and the Grasshopper - in ant-icipation


Anonymous said...

Interesting site... thanks for sharing your that poem..Signs of Rain... :) Shirley

catholic2007 said...

Hi Shirley,

Thanks for your comment...glad you enjoyed what you found....Yeah, I've had that poem for many, many years, and thought it was about time I published it, as I am sure very few would have come across it before ... and speaking of rain, the ants are getting more bothersome at the moment, drat! ....surely it wiil rain tomorrow?

8-D cheers D.

Anonymous said...

and surely it did .....

catholic2007 said...

... it didn't look too good for the ants this morning tho'....16 deg C a bit of sunshine, and thinking the ants have got it wrong ... they should just stick to 'fast runs the ant as the temperature rises' and play it safe. ... but lo and behold by mid afternoon, temperature had dropped chilly 12 deg C and currently 10 deg C as it all turned to 'custard'[ do ants like custard?] as light rain started to fall ... and so surely it did! ( shirely ?) you were right along with those pesky ants! 8-D

catholic2007 said...

...Shirley, blame it on the ants [ they are not the best at spelling...better at spoiling](sp) tip: I removed the "e" and tossed out the "l" then inserted a bit of "oil" into the gap ...and it worked just fine....and the ants no longer squeak (sp)

good night....

Anonymous said...

Mum always said she could smell ants..... :)

Am ant free here, interesting little things to watch though, especially when they are carrying loot to their hideaway....

catholic2007 said...

And did you know that what she was probably smelling was formic acid(H2CO2)that ants release in their venom when defending themselves or attacking: it has a pungent odor even at normal temperatures ... tell your Mum I am please she is ant-free, and that that may explain why I have had abnormally number of ants swarming across my kitchen bench, this winter, especially when I forget to clean up after me or leave any food items or scraps on the bench 8-(

I get rid of them with lots of hot water....they don't like that and let me know with plenty of H2CO2 !!

Since everyone seems to be more interested in 'ants' rather than my pretty 'clouds', I think I will post a special video on "Ants and Grasshoppers" - and moreover, since I have been giving those industrious little pesky ants such a hard time! 8-D

Anonymous said...

Hmm I did reply but seems to have disappeared...

catholic2007 said...

Anonymous No.4 ...feel free to try again, as nothing received from No.4 Anonymous and last one received from other 'anonyomouses' was on the 16 July....

all these anony-mouses can get a bit confusing ...but that's ok... 8-D makes life interesting, doesn't it?

Shiley said...

ok I shall be named....:D

To tell Mum about the ants I would need a clairvoyant.. ;) I do miss her...

catholic2007 said...

Shirly or Shirley? ...

You are still allowed to be anonymous (like me 8-D).... but thanks anyhow for your comment about your Mum ... we all miss them at some time, but that's life... and the ants are still bothering me; they get the same treatment but keep coming back for more...dumb ants, they need to fire their scouts!

catholic2007 said...

Shirly or Shirley? ...

You are still allowed to be anonymous (like me 8-D).... but thanks anyhow for your comment about your Mum ... we all miss them at some time, but that's life... and the ants are still bothering me; they get the same treatment but keep coming back for more...dumb ants, they need to fire their scouts!

Shirley said...

LOl oops..... Shirley

maybe you could stop attacking them then they wont retaliate by sending their army :)

catholic2007 said...

.... Mmmm ... but, but, they attacked me first, Shirley ...and I'm no pacifist ... and I have a duty to protect my own rubbish! 8-D

Shirley said...

Talibants .... :D

Shirlz said...

No new blogs? hope all is well and you are keeping warm :)

catholic2007 said...

Hi Shirley,

I've been hibernating's winter, or rather it was up until today, now that the sun is shining and we have topped 11 deg C, after the recent cold spell, which gave us a light coating of snow on the surrounding hills.... but as the old saying goes..."Spring is sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the Birdies is. They say the bird is on the wing, 'aint that absurd? I always thought the wing was on the bird.

I don't go by any 'official' date for the seasons...they can be early or late...besides some of my daffodils have sprung, and the tuis are feeding on the nectar of neigbor's tree. So that's spring for me...and the sun is getting quite hot [vitamin D time ]8-)

O.k. what would you like me to blog about? I need to get back on the blog on Fr. De Smet "Apostle of the Rocky Mountains"[ which I have barely started!]....then I was thinking doing one on "Hitler's false Christianity" as a sort of balance to "The Greatest Story Never Told" which I posted as a video back there somewhere?

But I am definitely not doing one on ants ... still getting a few stragglers but since I have been throwing my scrapes out at night, has mostly sorted that one out ...but then they could be feeling the effects of the recent cold spell courtesy of the polar Antarctic outbreak ...

Shirlz said...

Was just checking you were ok :) so many Tui around here and Wood Pigeons.. absolutely gorgeous...daffodils out in the park, Spring and Autumn are my favourite some weeding done today..Blog away....

catholic2007 said...

Hi Shirley,

yep,will do... thanks anyway for your concern...I have decided on the next blog or rather blogs, but you will have to wait a couple of days for them as I have a few little jobs in progress at the moment ....I will do one on "The Seven Dolors of Mary"- quite a short blog but will be of interest to a few, and then that one I mentioned on Hitler -very interesting ( which will require a bit of transcribing) keep tuned to this channel ... 8-)