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Obscured By Clouds

As TAM-7 approaches to within 10 days (sorry for the painful reminder for those of you that can’t make it), it seems that my to-do list is actually growing instead of shrinking, so I apologize for the short posting. But I wanted to share with you some pictures of clouds that, you’ll agree, look pretty amazing.

I showed these pictures of clouds to a few people to get their reaction, and they all pretty much said the same thing, that it looked like The Rapture, or The Apocalypse, or the end of the world was at hand.

Fear not, gentle readers. Nothing so radical is afoot, however, in the world of clouds, something might occur that hasn’t occurred in almost 60 years. These clouds are deserving of a new cloud classification, according to the folks at the Cloud Appreciation Society based out of Somerton, England. They are making a push to have these types of could formations to be officially classified as “asperatus”, which means “rough” in Latin. CAS is reportedly working with the Royal Meteorological Society to have it officially classified by the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. The WMO has the final say on the matter.

From the CAS:

“Our proposed new cloud variety shares some similarities with existing formations such as the more regular waves of undulatus clouds and the hanging pouches of mamma clouds, but we feel that this cloud is different enough from them to be classified as a variety of its own.”

Safe to say that because the WMO has not assigned a new classification of could since 1951, then the acceptance of asperatus would be a pretty big deal to meteorological science, and a big-time feather in the cap of the CAS.

One of our listeners brought this news story to my attention. He sent me a Facebook message asking me if I thought any of these pictures were fakes, and why wouldn’t there be thousands of pictures like them over the course of the years and decades.

It is always possible that fake photos could mingle in with some of the legitimate photographs. This news story has been around for a few weeks, and there are no serious allegations of any trickery that I can find. I think it is reasonable that anyone who had proof of any of these being faked would step forward loudly and proudly, and that day might still come. In the meantime, I think we need to accept these as legitimate photos.

Why haven’t thousands of photos of clouds like this been taken? One reason might be, according to the CAS, that these cloud formations do not linger. They form and move rapidly, and in as short a span as 15 minutes, they have come and gone. Now that this news story has made it around the press circuit, bringing a new level of attention to groups such as the CAS, I think we will soon start to see new photos of “asperatus” cropping up on the internet by those who have the patience it takes to be cloud hunters.

7 comments to Obscured By Clouds

  • Do you have higher-res versions of these? They look cool, I guess, but it’s hard to tell by the horrible compression artifacts.

    I’m also glad to hear that there is a cloud appreciation society. It’s about time the clouds got the appreciation they deserve!

  • I think it’s disturbing that you got those reactions from the people you showed the photos to. Seems the american culture is so steeped in end-times rhetoric that it colors everone’s thinking.

    I just thought it was a cool sunset.

  • matt g

    The second photo looks like a high dynamic range image from several exposures combined. If not, it’s from a very lucky moment of natural light.

    All three of them feature levels and combinations of lighting we’re not used to seeing with our eyes – we can’t be arbitrary about exposure (like filling our view with ground, and then exposing for detail in the sky) and light sensitivity the way a camera can.

  • When I was little, I used to have this recurring nightmare about orange clouds. They would turn into hands and come down and grab people. When I saw that first picture, it brought back some horrible memories of those dreams.

    The one cloud in the middle of that picture looks like it’s turning into a hand.

  • Bastard Sheep

    As many people would suspect, the pictures used by the cloud appreciation society have in actual fact been highly modified. So much so that in some cases they had me personally wondering if they were actually screenshots from a computer game.

    A little searching though, and I’ve come across less “enhanced” pictures that look significantly more realistic and in my own humble opinion much more impressive.

    Without link spamming URL’s, the best collection of the less enhanced pictures can be found at the national geographic here (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/06/photogalleries/new-cloud-pictures/index.html), though unfortunately the pictures are quite small in size.

    All four pictures used at the National Geo site are also to be found at CAS so you can compare them side by side to see just how CAS ruined the pictures when they “enhanced” them and made real images of actual phenomena out to appear fake.

  • The Blind Watchmaker

    Looks like a typical sky in your average Steven Spielberg movie.

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