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Cloud Gazing

Look up. Look at the clouds, the way they gather, morph and scud across the sky. There are few things that rival the simple beauty of a cloud and, of course, each one is completely unique.

Have you spent car journeys cloud spotting, picking out shapes in the sky and watching them hold that shape for just a few moments before changing again? The sky is like a canvas on which clouds appear as an ever-changing painting.

There are lots of different types of clouds: stratus, stratocumulus, cirrostratus, cirrus, altostratus, nimbostratus, cirrocumulus, cumulonimbus, cumulus and altocumulus. Some herald good weather and others bring storms and showers.


From an early age, when we begin to draw pictures or do paintings of the outdoors, we typically depict clouds as cotton woolly, candyfloss objects. Picture a cloud and the chances are, you’ll be thinking of a cumulus cloud – the most common and distinctive of clouds. In fact, the graphic designer who imagined the now iconic weather symbols for the Met Office during the sixties also had a cumulus in mind when creating a recognisable shorthand for cloudy weather.


Cumulus clouds – meaning ‘heap’ in Latin, are known as fair weather clouds and often pop up on sunny days. Along the coastline, cumulus clouds often form over land as the sea breeze brings in moist air. Chances are, then, that when you’re lying back on a picnic blanket on a warm, sunny day, picking out cloud shapes in the sky, you’ll be cloud spotting cumulus clouds.

What’s the most interesting shape you can find?

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