Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Send in the clouds

I have always been fascinated by clouds. One of the earliest science projects I completed for school was a diagram of the major cloud types consisting of an array of cotton balls on a blue construction paper background.

According to my handy Understanding Weather and Climate textbook from Aguado and Burt, our earliest cloud classification system had four types: cirrus (those thin wispy clouds that look like threads of cotton candy), stratus (flat, layered clouds that remind me of pancakes), cumulus (puffy clouds that look like balls of cotton) and nimbus (rain-producing clouds). Today, we group clouds according to both height and form, allowing for more detailed classification.

I took this photograph of the sky over the North Carolina coast near Beaufort in the early fall of 2007. I can tell these are cumulus clouds by their puffy shape. According to my textbook, I suspect they can be further classified as cumulus humilis, or fair weather cumulus.

Photographing clouds is a fun way to appreciate their beauty. Be sure to check out my favorite book on the subject, John A. Day's gorgeous table-top tome, The Book of Clouds. You can also visit Day's website, CloudmanTM.

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