An Update on the Asperatus Cloud

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Members and visitors might remember that a couple of years ago we proposed that a new classification of cloud should be added to the official classification system. Photographs of this cloud formation had been sent in by Society members over the years, and we’d never known quite how to classify them since we felt that they didn’t easily fit into the existing cloud terms.

The cloud looks a little like the surface of the sea on a choppy day, which is why we proposed that it should be called asperatus from the Latin verb ‘aspero’, meaning to make rough. The term was used by Roman poets to describe the sea as it was roughened by the cold north wind.

Asperatus clouds over the Lofoten Islands, Norway. © Ragnhild M Hansen

Asperatus clouds over the Lofoten Islands, Norway. © Ragnhild M Hansen

No sooner had we proposed asperatus as a new cloud type than the story ‘went viral’, becoming one of those news stories that just spreads through the world media. News pieces appeared in the UK, the US, online and in many other contries. It was even nominated as one of Time Magazine’s 50 best inventions of 2009.

We felt all this press attention was a little premature as there hadn’t even been time to look into the atmospheric conditions that give rise to the cloud formation. But all the publicity did lead to a huge number of people sending in their own photographs of asperatus clouds they’d spotted, greatly adding to the growing asperatus collection.

Soon, the term was being adopted by cloudspotters around the world. But we always thought it a pretty unlikely to ever be accepted as an official term. This, we were were told by our friends at The Royal Meteorological Society would only happen if it were acknowledged by the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva, who publish the rather dry but thorough bible of cloud classification, The International Cloud Atlas.

Asperatus over Schiehallion, Perthshire, Scotland. © Ken Prior.

Asperatus over Schiehallion, Perthshire, Scotland. © Ken Prior.

Graeme Anderson

Graeme Anderson's asperatus dissertation.

For asperatus to stand a chance of becoming official, we were told, we’d need some idea of the atmospheric conditions that cause it to appear. Finding this out sounded like a lot of work. So we were pleased to learn that Graeme Anderson, an MSc student at the Department of Meteorology, Reading University, had decided to write his dissertation on the cloud, and was happy to trawl through the meteorological records for the dates and locations of the asperatus sightings we’d been sent to try and work out what caused the formation.

By studying the weather records and using a computer model to simulate the cloud, Graeme found evidence that asperatus is formed in the sort of conditions that produce mamma clouds (also known as mammatus), but when the winds up at the cloud level cause it to be sheared into wavelike forms known as undulatus. The conclusion was that there was a case for this being accepted as a new classification – one that is called a cloud ‘supplementary feature’.

The Royal Meteorological Society is now encouraging the international meteorological community to update the Cloud Atlas and include asperatus to make it official. The current edition, after all, was published in the 1970s. If asperatus is accepted, it will be the first official cloud classification in 60 years.

Chicago sightings

Recent sightings over Chicago.

The asperatus sightings continue to come in. Just recently, a dramatic display over Chicago, US, featured in the local newspapers (and see an update here).

We will keep you posted if there is any news about the World Meteorological Organisation deciding to go ahead and update the classification system.

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24 comments have been made

  1. USMCWayne20 Feb 2013

    Great show this AM above Fort Worth, TX of this cloud formation. absolutely stunning and a tad bit creepy. I’d never seen anything like it, and was able to capture a number of shots after dropping my son off at school.

  2. idk11 Apr 2013

    edit your stuff first. “this we were were..”

  3. Kim Hill28 Apr 2013

    This is my image share. Taken on March 24, 2012 in the town of Clay, New York. It was lightly raining on and off. Other than that, I don’t recall much other stormy weather.

  4. Rebecca15 May 2013

    Since you are clouds professionals, I would like to share with you all something that my grandma taught me — if she is still alive she will be 136 years old in 2013 !! She said that when we see red clouds in the morning, there will be rain at the evening. If you see red clouds in the evening, there will be sunshine the next morning !! I found it is 100% accurate in Malaysia and China. What about in your country ??
    Love the photos that you took, I love to watch the clouds when I was young !! We saw human,animals, trees and all sorts of art in the sky !! So pretty !!

  5. Amanda19 May 2013

    Saw clouds like this about a month ago over Cardiff. Unfortunatly was on my way to work so no camera with me.

  6. Matt10 Jun 2013

    This is common in Australia when they cover the sky with geoengineering chemtrails. You can measure large amounts of anomalous ionisation during these times which is caused by the ground-based RF for the purpose of controlling the weather. Not a new cloud, just weather manipulation.

  7. Billie12 Jul 2013

    Thanks Dave so glad there’s at least 1 person that can see through the bulls**t, if you don’t know what HAARP is or what it is capable of you have been living under a rock piled very high with lies, only the ignorant have no idea. Thanks ‘cloud appreciation society’ for not knowing the difference, please do your due diligence and do some research.

  8. Judith12 Jul 2013

    Delightful and many thanks to Graeme Anderson for his diligent work — a great contribution to the cloud collection!

  9. Lorraine Surringer25 Jul 2013

    Totally agree with Bonnie, Matt & Billie – have been a skywatcher all my life and these weird NEW cloud formations have only occurred since the onset of all the geoengineering experimentation – which IS going one and is admitted in government documents available online – although admitted that most of the testing is carried out in secrecy: ‘We
    consider that a ban, even a short-term ban, on all SRM geoengineering testing would prevent work on geoengineering as “Plan B”. It may well also be unenforceable and be counter-productive as those carrying out tests do so in secrecy.’ (House of Commons Report on Geoengineering 2010) What baffles me, is why so many organisations, environmental groups and interest groups such as this one – fail to acknowledge or accept that our climate now is man-made! Man should stop interfering with Nature in such drastic ways because Nature will always win! Who wants to gaze up at such oppressive and malignant skies?

  10. Bradley7 Aug 2013

    Have a picture of cloud formations like this taken on 2 August 2013, no geoengineerng involved. I find the idea that these clouds were geoengineered quite funny.

    This was nature at its best, they were preceeded by multiple thunderstorms, I’ll have to upload it on here.

  11. ontherocks2 Oct 2013

    I have seen theses before, in Georgia and maybe in Oklahoma. I photograph clouds on a regular basis for use in junior college science classes, I will see if I can find examples.

  12. ontherocks2 Oct 2013

    Sorry for the typo.

  13. Lena Kosha6 Nov 2013

    Today in Flint, MI I believe I spotted some. I have several photographs. Interested in knowing if they are the new cloud asperatus formations.

  14. Mezza Rarty30 Nov 2013

    On 25th January 2012 I spotted what can only be described as Asperatus Clouds in Doncaster, Victoria, Australia. I took many photos should you be interested. I remember the day being warm with a top of 79 degrees F (26C), with gusty winds.

  15. Sally8 Jan 2014

    These clouds may have been common in some areas, but that they are now being seen in new areas with different conditions screams HAARP and weather manipulation to me. I’m sure there are many Sci-fi fans who have no awareness of chemtrails, that is left for enviromentalists and people who are interested in what is happening in the world to investigate. If you want to give them a name why not Van Gogh clouds, I’m more interested in what they are, not getting them named. I certainly don’t appreciate man-made pollution in our skies.

  16. Sadie B.2 Mar 2014

    Agree with Sally that many of these newer clouds seem caused by pollution, destruction of the ozone and atmosphere, and climate change – and we’re likely to see more weird sky phenomena when the Arctic ice melts – another HAARP “experiment.”

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  21. Darlisa Black8 Jun 2014

    Marvelous article on this strange cloud type. I have seen these in the southern Cascade Mountains in Washington around MOunt Adams.

  22. Fred9 Jun 2014

    We saw some in Brussels(Belgium)today.

  23. DL Rover10 Jun 2014

    Never in my youth did I see clouds like this.
    Giving Latin names to cloud formations that are HAARP induced is the creation of a new science, where there is no science whatsoever, only treason and the poisoning of the earth.

  24. Jennifer23 Sep 2014

    The first time I saw these type of clouds was in 1987 in Ohio. We have pictures of them. It was right before a huge storm. I always wondered if they were related to mamma cloud, and it’s cool to find out that they probably are!

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