Look! Up in the sky! It's a new kind of cloud

Carla Harmon
March 24, 2017

The release of the new atlas makes them official, and years of hard work have finally paid off.

"Asperitas is characterized by localized waves in the cloud base, either smooth or dappled with smaller features, sometimes descending into sharp points, as if viewing a roughened sea surface from below".

He added: "Identifying, describing and naming clouds remains critical to the study of weather and climate".

Now, after at least a decade of inspiring photographs and wonder, the cloud pattern has also inspired an update to the global classification of clouds, the World Meteorological Organization announced Thursday - a new designation called asperitas, drawn from the Latin for "roughness".


The International Cloud Atlas has added twelve types of cloud formations to its recognised list for the first time in 30 years.

One of the reasons the database of cloud types is expanding is that smartphone photography has allowed more people to grab pictures of short-lived clouds and send them to the Cloud Appreciation Society.

So when the WMO announced the update on World Meteorological Day, those cloud watchers rejoiced. There is a need to better understand how clouds affect the climate and how a changing climate will affect clouds.

Newly recognized volutus clouds resemble a giant roll, and are actually considered a new "species" of cloud.


The wave-like volutus joins 14 other recognised cloud species, including stratiformus, nebulosus and lenticularis, in the 2017 edition of the World Meteorological Organisation's Cloud Atlas. Its last update was in 1987. That would be a huge coup since the atlas is widely used to train meteorologists from the time it was first published in the late 19th century.

The new release also comes with some controversy. And if we want to predict the availability of water resources, we have to understand clouds.

There are ten basic cloud genera, defined according to where in the sky they form and their approximate appearance - including alto, cirrus, cumulus, nimbus and stratus.


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