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You Never Forget Your First Asperatus

On Friday March 12, as I was driving along a stretch of highway when a patch of large sky suddenly filled the majority of my field of vision. It was a cloudy, overcast day with very light precipitation. I stared at the sky for a moment, and in doing so, I almost drove off the road when I saw the clouds in front of me.

I immediately recognized it as an Asperatus formation, the first time I can recall ever seeing this type of cloud pattern in Connecticut.

Regular readers with this blog know that I have a passing interest with clouds. On the podcast, the subject of clouds arises in the context of our discussions concerning pareidolia and UFO’s.

I have always been a person who will stop and look up at the sky every once in a while to see what the clouds are doing. If something interesting is forming, I’ll stop for a few minutes and take in that fleeting moment of beauty or awe, fascinated by some of the most amazing patterns that nature conjures.

Last summer, I blogged about a certain type of cloud called Undulatus Asperatus, or simply Asperatus. This formation of cloud cover is quite a sight to be seen. Only officially recognized by the World Meteorological Organization in 2009 as a type of cloud, the conditions under which these rare patterns form are not yet fully understood by scientists. Prior to 2009, the last new category of cloud recognized by the WMO took place in 1951. Suffice to say, meteorological scientists are not hasty when it comes to making new declarations about their specialty.

Now, chances are I have probably seen clouds like this sometime in my life, and though I probably deemed them “cool” at the time, I had no idea what I was seeing. However, since I became aware of Asperatus last year, I know for certain that I had not seen these kinds of clouds since then.

Armed only with the camera in my Blackberry, I managed to take a few snapshots. This was the one that came out with the most definition. Pictures fail to adequately reproduce the feeling of the environment, and especially with a limited phone-camera, the picture does not do the actual event real justice. Nonetheless, I felt lucky to have gotten any shots at all.

The photo above was enhanced to provide a better idea as to the curves and lines that help define Asperatus formations. Many of the photos on the internet are also enhanced for the same purposes. Below is the original photo.

7 comments to You Never Forget Your First Asperatus

  • modoc451

    I’ve always been partial to the Altostratus undulatus, and I had no idea what these kinds of clouds were called before this post. Now I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for these newfangled asperatus. Thanks Evan!

  • The sky looks like the underside of a frozen lake.

  • mfryer100

    I saw that type of cloud formation a few years ago here at Olympia, Washington. That was the only time I ever remember that type of cloud formation, it was very cool.

  • BlueFrog

    I loved this post and had just been reading about this amazing cloud. One site I read about meteorological info on is Meteorological News. They have a great post about Aseratus clouds (fantasitic photos too), but the part worth reading are the comments to the post. The causes of this amazing cloud, according to the commenters, are Chem trails, HAARP or other incredible nonsense. Really interesting how scary these cloud seem to some people. The link to the article and comments is:


  • Madeline Dietrich

    I assumed upon reading the post title this was going to be about an emergency room breathing device. I was rather happy to find it was about clouds. I saw this formation recently.(I have seen it in the past, prior to the official naming). Last week a strong late-season cold front blew into southeast Texas. This formation occurred when the ground temperature was in the 60’s, and I witnessed it while driving into Houston around 7:30am on Saturday March 20. The weather turned much colder that day and it rained for an extended period, followed by temperatures in the low 40’s accompanied by 25-30 mph winds out of the north with gusts of 35-40 mph (at least) on the coast, where I was Saturday night. (I was carrying a double bass across a parking lot at one point and almost became airborne!) Anyway, Asparatus must be the result of an unstable meeting of two very different air masses, a beautiful, dramatic and fleeting boundary line.

  • Cobey

    Holy crap it looks like an upside down Ansel Adams snow blown desert photo. Great article. My job consist of a lot of standing around outside doing nothing and offers many opportunities to see cool clouds. I hope I see something like this one day.

  • twinarp

    Thought you might not have seen this one. I thought it was SENSATIONAL.



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