Name That Cloud

Name That Cloud Title

We asked you to, and you did.

(Click images to enlarge)

Unable to find a suitable classification for the dramatic and beautiful cloud formations shown above, we asked Society members to give their suggestions for a new cloud name. Here are some of your answers.
And, at the bottom of the page, you will see that we are now trying to have this cloud recognised as a new official classification.

From Hannah Miller, UK, Member 2492:

From Simon Beasor, UK, Member 3048:
They look a lot like what we call Heavy Light.
That moment just before a huge downpour, when the sky is really heavy and dark and ponderous but some light is sneaking around under the clouds.
This light gives everything a realy ethereal contrast and the whole world feels a bit strange and weird for a few minutes, full of potential and mystery.
Then the heavens open and you get soaked back to reality!
Heavy Light – you heard it here first.

From Peter McIlhenny, UK, Member 3283:
I think Sistine would fit. It sounds quite scientific whilst having a clear reference to that famous ceiling as a nod to its vast sweep and painterliness.

From Peter (Membership Number not stated):
Give it the old english name ‘Wafian‘ for wave.

From Kim Pedersen, US, Member 4128:
These remind me of a popular movie from some time ago.
How about ‘Close Encounter Clouds?’
If you want a shorter title, how about Encounter Clouds?

From Jeff Brown, UK, Member 4477:
My personal opinion is that you’ve got your classic stratocumulus lenticularis with embedded cumulonimbus mammata with stratus fractus and virga – and let’s face it, who hasn’t seen that before? If it has no official name then why not use your own (or better still – mine)? JeffwavesKingJeffwavesLordjeffwaves – something like that.

From Kathryn J Harlow, US, Member 1668:
I think you should call the freaky Iowa clouds “burled” like the type of
wood that they resemble.
Burled Mammatus clouds or something – that’s
what they look like.

From Mary White, UK, Member 3277:
Those clouds are beautiful & rolling. They almost look unreal.
I’d like to name them Lava Pillow Clouds please.

From Frank Curwood, UK, Member 176:
Armageddon Clouds spring to mind! They have a threatening look about them.

From Jane Collinson, no Membership Number given:
Draped clouds, as they look like the folds in curtains. Or Roman Blind Clouds for similar reasons.

From Jordie Albiston, Australia, Member 4262:
Sheet Twister (silk, of course…)

From Darrell Hamley, UK, Member 3447:
How about Spirit Clouds or Stratus Spiritus?

From Hilary Hardy, UK, a too new a member to have a number yet:
It just has to be Altocumulus Oceanus. How’s that?!


In the end, we decided we needed a more offical-sounding Latin name. This is because we decided to see if we could actually get it recognised as a new cloud classification.
As part of a documentary about clouds for the BBC, we presented this cloud to a panel of meteorologists from the UK’s Royal Meteorological Society to try and persuade them of the need to add a new classification to the official naming system. We proposed it as a new ‘variety’ of cloud, and suggested the official-sounding name, ‘asperatus’. This is Latin for ‘roughened up’, like a choppy sea.
You will have to wait for the documentary to see what they thought. We’ll add something to the Attention All Cloudspotters page when we know when the documentary is showing.
Here are some photos of society founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, nervously making his presentation to panel members Professor Paul Hardaker, Chief Exec of The Royal Meteorological Society, Dr Liz Bentley, Meteorologist, Dr Simon Keeling, Meteorologist and George Anderson, Met Office Forecaster:

imgp0581 imgp0589 imgp0595
Photographs by Sam Nightingale (

One thought on “Name That Cloud”

  1. […] There are a few examples of this cloud type on the gallery pages (particularly the ones that appeared in Iowa, US, in the summer of 2006 – see here and here). But it is by no means clear to us what their classification should be. In fact, it seems to us that we lack a suitable name for this formation. So, a while back, we asked C.A.S. members to come up with their own suggestions. Look here to see members’ name ideas. […]

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