Phoning in New Clouds: Part 2 – Meet the Newest Clouds

January 29, 2019
Cloud Shaped Like Waves

My last post celebrated cloud lovers and how they shook the science world with their cell phones. They discovered 12 clouds now listed in the International Cloud Atlas—the first officially recognized in 30 years. Now it’s time to meet these strange new clouds filling the skies. 


Clouds recognized since 1986. Source: NOAA.

The World Meteorological Organization originally recognized only 10 types (genera) of clouds and organized them by form and height, with genus, species and varieties just like plants and animal classifications. Thanks to devoted amateurs and good cell phone pictures, they have discovered a whole new species and 11 varieties. They fit these new clouds in the old genus groups and have given them complicated Latin names. Then they stored the pictures in the United Nation’s International Cloud Atlas,


The burrito of the sky: the volutus. Source: WMO.

The biggest change to the atlas is the volutus, a whole new species. This cloud is the burrito of the sky, formed when the cold upper air drops and rolls the warm, moist air to form a long, horizontal cylinder. 


The Doomsday cloud: Undulatus Asperatus Source: NASA. Credit Witta Priester.

The rest of the clouds are species with the first and most popular addition being the scary-looking Undulatus Asperatus (Latin for “billowing roughness”). They were the first new cloud identified since 1951. Discovered by Gavin Pretor-Pinney in 2006, the Cloud Appreciation Society has been pushing for their official scientific recognition ever since.

The other new clouds are either Supplements (odd attachments), “Special” (weirdly created) or Accessory. The next blog will do the Frankenstein “Special” clouds and the latest accessory. This blog will show you the peculiar Supplement clouds. Probably the most fun of these in the Fluctus wave clouds that look like they were created by a cartoon artist. Then there is the Cavum or “hole-punch” cloud. The cauda cloud is a horizontal, non-spinning tail. More familiar to “Tornado Alley” residents is the real “Doomsday” cloud, the murus or wall cloud, with its turbulent winds that can create tornadoes.


Surfs Up with Fluctus clouds! Source: WMO.


The Holy, holy, holy Cavum cloud Source: Wikimedia.


A deadly murus or wall cloud spawning a twister (bottom left) and cauda or tail cloud (bottom right) Source WMO.

There are more pictures stored on the internet, in the cloud!

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.