Spot on Science: New Clouds

Have you ever gone cloud gazing – you know when you look up at the sky to see what shapes you can find in the clouds? Maybe you’ve seen a heart or a dragon or… a newscat? Hey that can’t be real! Clouds are classified by their shapes and how high they are in the sky.

Maybe you’ve heard of some of the most common cloud types – the fluffy low cumulus, wispy high cirrus or earth hugging hazy stratus. But just this past week a new set of cloud types was added to the International Cloud Atlas – it’s been 30 years since the world’s cloud authority added a new classification of cloud to their books. Let’s take a look at some of these new guys in the skies.

First up, the volutus. Volutus is Latin for rolled. See how the cloud looks wrapped up like a burrito? Usually the rolls stick to themselves and are common in Australia where they are call a morning glory cloud.

The next new cloud isn’t quite as cuddly. Asperitus clouds are rough and choppy. They almost look like someone shaking a blanket. Despite their ominous waves, these clouds usually break up without even forming a storm.

Even more of an ocean in the sky are the new type of cloud called fluctus. They “really” look like a row of waves in the sky, don’t they? They form when the top of a cloud moves faster than the bottom.

Finally how about this one. The cavum is a hole punch in the sky. They can form when a plane flies through the clouds or when the cloud is super cool and part of it condenses into a wispy spot.

Ahh so many new shapes to spot in the sky! I better get out my binoculars!

Instructional Links

Website Article: Geography and You, Volutus & Eleven New Clouds in the International Cloud Atlas | Includes pictures and descriptions of new types

Website: International Cloud Atlas, Descriptions of Clouds

Website Article: Science Kids, Science Careers, Meteorologist

Website Article: Newsela, What Are Clouds? | Must sign in. Level articles with writing prompt & quiz

Video: PBS LearningMedia, Zoom, Kid Meteorologist | Includes background information and discussion questions.

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