Few reference books inspire such awe and wonder as the International Cloud Atlas. First published in 1896, the collector’s item is used by meteorologists, sailors, and admirers alike. Now, it’s available on the web for the first time, complete with 12 new types.
The web portal and new cloud types are both nods to the digital age. The former is obvious—reference materials are tailor made for the internet—while the latter is a result of digital cameras and smartphones.
In the past, new cloud types, especially rare ones, were difficult to document. Now, with the ubiquity of digital photography, nearly anyone can snap a high-resolution photo of an unusual cloud and sent it to a meteorologist for examination.
Among the new types added to the atlas are the wavy, mesmerizing asperitas cloud, the imposing, roll-like volutus cloud, and the hole-punch cavum cloud.
“Back in 2008, I thought the chances of this becoming official were really minimal,” said Gavin Pretor-Pinney, president of the [Cloud Appreciation Society].
“At first the WMO were saying they had no plans to do a new edition, but over time I think they began to realise there is an interest among the public in clouds and there is a need for that interest to be an informed one, there’s a need for this authoritative work.”
The only new species is the volutus cloud; the other additions are include five supplementary features, one accessory cloud, and five so-called “special clouds” that are dependent on local factors that lead to the formation of or change in appearance of a cloud. The World Meteorological Organization has a full rundown of the new types.
The new additions to the Cloud Atlas are so varied that it’s likely that keen observers have already witnessed at least one.