Take a look out the window. Are there any clouds in the sky today? Can you name them? Today, most of us are familiar with the names of the basic cloud types: stratus, cumulus, cirrus. But here's another name...Luke Howard. Probably never heard of him, right? Well, he's the Man Who Named the Clouds. Hi, I'm Dave Thurlow, the man who hosts the Weather Notebook.
Prior to the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, most weather observers believed clouds were too transient, changeable, and short-lived to be classified or even analyzed. Cloud types were never named; they were just described by their color and form as each observer saw them: dark, white, gray, black, mare's tails or towers.
Howard, however, believed that clouds could be identified by four simple categories within the complexity of cloud forms. Here they are:
Cumulus, Latin for 'heap'; Stratus, Latin for 'layer'; Cirrus, Latin for 'wispy curly hair'; and, Nimbus, Latin for 'rain'.
The basic forms could be combined, thus for example giving us: cumulo nimbus or cirro stratus.
Howard's classification was accepted almost intact by the meteorological community in the early 1800's, with a few additional terms, such as 'alto' meaning 'middle, and it likely won worldwide acceptance because he provided his categories with Latin names, as the great naturalist Linnaeus had done with plants and animals.
Now to see pictures - with names - of the different kinds of clouds, be sure to visit our website, which is weathernotebook.org.
Thanks to Keith Heidorn, today's contributing writer. The Weather Notebook is underwritten by Subaru, the beauty of all wheel.
Sketches of Clouds
Gordo's Cloud Gallery
Common Cloud Classifications