Things are looking up: CLOUDS and what they mean

My three year old son is like a puppy – he needs a LOT of exercise! That’s why so many of our outdoor activities are based around ways to use up that energy and tire him out.

But sometimes it’s nice to attempt to slow him down a bit – get him to realise that life doesn’t always have to be run at a million miles an hour whilst bellowing 670 decibels. And there’s one peaceful activity that he particularly LOVES: cloud watching.

We like to get comfy on the grass, or on a blanket on the beach, and look up into the sky together. We search out funny or unusual shapes in the clouds. Sometimes I tell him a story about a mythical world that might exist up there. And we talk about the different types of clouds, why they develop, and what they actually mean, from a meteorological point of view.

Cumulus are the light, fluffy clouds that often accumulate as clear, sunny days progress. They look a bit like a cauliflower, we giggle to each other. They can be quite low in the sky, with bright white bouncy-looking tops. As the day goes on they often clump together, driven by convection (heat from the land rising and circling) and their undersides can look grey as they grow larger.

Stratocumulus have a slightly flatter appearance, and look a bit like cumulus that have been sat on, all squished out to the sides. They cover more of the sky and often look a bit fragmented as they stretch out, sort of like a honeycomb.

Cumulo nimbus – I have to start by saying what a fantastic word this is! We love just saying it! (I always think of the Crowded House song lyrics which mention this cloud –  ‘When You Come’ is one of our favourite songs, full of emotion and drama, conveyed through metaphors such as thunderclaps, volcanoes, cumulo nimbus and stars burning and exploding – Nate loves it! I’ll pop the lyrics at the bottom of this post for you, with a link to the music video). This cloud is a drama queen! A great big, billowing, quivering mass with a warning…stormy, squally, thundery downpours are imminent! Quite often it forms an anvil shape as it sucks in other cloud material from around it, expanding and heaving until it bursts and drenches you. Common in the late afternoon on hot summer days.

Stratus are the low, grey, sheetlike clouds which cover the sky blocking the sun, and can either just sit there, being a bit dull, or can get wetter and wetter until drizzle and rain develop.

Alto cumulus, alto stratus, and alto nimbus are all mid-sky versions of the clouds mentioned above, but are usually in a much smaller, more spread out version.

Cirrus are beautiful, sky-high formations of ice crystals which are often wind whipped into ribbon like shapes, silken strands uncoiling across the sky. They can be quite transparent and contribute to amazing sunsets and sunrises as the ice crystals reflect and refract the light.

Cirro stratus and Cirro cumulus occur when the cirrus clouds come together, thickening into more of a veil-like appearance (CS) or rippled sand (CC).

Have fun gazing up together!

When You Come
When you come across the sea
Me like a beacon guiding you to safety
The sooner the better now
And when you come the hills
Will breathe like a baby
Pulled up heaving from the bottom of the ocean
The sooner the better now
When you come to cover me with your kisses
Fresh like a daisy chained up in a lion’s den
I’ll know you by the thunderclap
Pouring like a rain of blood to my emotions
And that is why
I stumble to my knees
And why underneath the heavens
With the stars burning and exploding
I know I could never let you down
When you come like an iceberg float in darkness
Smashing my hull send me to the bottom of the sea
I should know you better now
When you come your majesty to entrap me
Prince of light receding
The sooner the better now
And when you come to cover me
With your kisses hard like armour
The sooner the better now
I’ll know you by the thunderclap
Pouring like a rain of blood to my emotions
And that is why
I stumble to my knees
And why underneath the heavens
With the stars burning and exploding
I know I could never let you down
She came out of the water
Into my horizon
Like a cumulo nimbus
Coming in from a distance
Burning and exploding
Burning and exploding
Like a slow volcano
When you come
Cover the ground with ashes
When you come
Songwriters: Neil Mullane Finn
When You Come lyrics © Obo Apra/Amcos

Here’s a link to the music video: https://youtu.be/LUP3XOa3yRs?t=17s

 

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