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December 2018

December 2018

When Less is more

To counter the December season of excess, we’ve selected as Cloud of the Month the simplest, most understated of formations. Cumulus fractus is the ragged form of Cumulus cloud that appears in its first stages of formation or when it is in the process of dissipating away – like these ones spotted over Queens, New York, US by George Preoteasa (Member 41,445).

Compared with the crisp, bold contours of a Cumulus in the full bloom of maturity, the frayed embryonic edges of a young fractus give the cloud a delicate and frail appearance. The droplets are only beginning to materialise in the invisible currents of a rising thermal. This is a newborn Cumulus, tentative and unsure before the familiar, bold mounds of maturity take form.

The same Cumulus fractus stage returns as the cloud starts to vanish again. In its dying moments, the nature of the Cumulus shares much with that at its birth. Now the droplets are evaporating away in the mix of weakening thermal with passing winds. The cloud’s edges wear thin, grow threadbare. The Cumulus fractus of passing is indistinct and delicate once more. All life is a cycle – even that of a Cumulus, which lasts just to the ripe old age of 15 minutes.

Cumulus fractus spotted over Queens, New York, US by George Preoteasa (Member 41,445).

  • Olivia Negron avatar

    Olivia Negron

    December 5, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Dear Gavin,
    What a lovely piece if writing. I am watching the funeral of an American President, scrolling through my e-mails, and your thoughts are oddly apt and very comforting.
    I love the CAS and your delightful mind that created it.
    Thank you.
    Olivia Negrón
    CAS Ambassador
    Studio City, CA, USA

  • Gavin Pretor-Pinney avatar

    Gavin Pretor-Pinney

    December 27, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    I’m so glad you like the December Cloud of the Month! Thanks for letting us know here.
    Best wishes for the New Year.

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