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Amazing Cloud Formation Facts and Pictures

As the famous phrase goes "a picture is worth a thousand words", meaning a gallery must be invaluable. Here are some phenomenal pictures I came across, while the information is from an article in 'The Telegraph' which  is linked to in the 'further reading'.

Naming clouds
Clouds are classified according to their height and appearance. The 10 basic categories were first agreed by the Cloud Committee of the International Meteorological Conference in 1896 and published as the International Cloud Atlas. Their classifications were based on the pioneering work of Luke Howard (1772-1864), an English Quaker and pharmacist, who published his Essay on the Modification of Clouds in 1802. In it he gives Latin names to the four main cloud types: cirrus, "curl"; stratus, "layer"; cumulus, "heap"; and nimbus, "rain cloud". The early theorist of evolution, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) had suggested an earlier system in French but it didn't catch on – his names included "hazy clouds" (en forme de voile), "massed clouds" (attroupes), "broom-like clouds" (en balayeurs). Before Howard and Lamarck, clouds were simply named after their appearance: white, black, mare's tail or mackerel.

Inside clouds
In 1959 Lieutenant-Colonel William Rankin, a pilot in the US Air Force, became the only man to have survived a fall though a cumulonimbus, the anvil-shaped thunder cloud that can reach as high as 50,000 feet. Rankin was flying

across the top of a cumulonimbus when his plane caught fire and he was forced to eject. He spent a good half an hour trapped inside the cloud being thrown about and pelted with hail. Miraculously he survived, albeit with frostbite, blood pouring from his eyes, nose, mouth and ears due to decompression and welts caused by the hail. Pilots do all they can to avoid cumulonimbus clouds. Hail is capable of puncturing the exterior skin of an aircraft, lightning can destroy the on-board electrics, supercooled water will coat a plane's wings with ice, altering its aerodynamic profile and the air currents inside the cloud can flip even large planes over.

Night clouds
Cirrus clouds are higher than cumulonimbus but they are not the highest clouds. Seven times higher are noctilucent ("night shining") clouds, silvery blue streaks that form so high up in the atmosphere they reflect the sun's light, even at night.
Meteorologists refer to them as NLCs or "polar mesospheric clouds". This is because they form right on the boundary of the mesosphere (between the stratosphere and space). The mesosphere is dry and cold (about -123°C), unlike the warm, moist troposphere below, where all the other clouds form. These noctilucent clouds are composed of tiny ice crystals – a fiftieth of the width of a strand of human hair. Noctilucent clouds are on the increase – there are twice as many as there were 35 years ago and they're moving south: a visible result of global warming.

Classic clouds
Cumulus are the white fluffy clouds in children's drawings. They are also the ones used on BBC weather forecasts: their shape was chosen by 22-year-old graphic designer Mark Allen when he created the icons in 1975. Hindus and Buddhists believe cumulus clouds are the spiritual cousins of elephants. Megha, meaning "cloud" in classical Hindi, is also the name used to address elephants in prayer.

Good clouds
In Iran clouds are good omens. To indicate someone is blessed they say:dayem semakum ghaim, which translates as "your sky is always filled with clouds".

Making clouds
"Cloud seeding" was developed in the Forties at the General Electric Company in New York State. In 1943 they dropped three pounds of dry ice into a stratus cloud. Doing this made it snow and left a hole in the cloud. To prove this was not a fluke they did it again using dry ice to cut the General Electric logo into the cloud.

Further Reading:

A quote to have a think about:
A cloud is made of billows upon billows upon billows that look like clouds. As you come closer to a cloud you don't get something smooth, but irregularities at a smaller scale.
(Benoit Mandelbrot)

The GeoMessenger