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September 2019

September 2019

When Clouds Raise an Eyebrow


The names of the different cloud types are mostly based on what they look like. We just say the shapes in Latin to make the classifications sound grown-up. The high, wavy streaks of Cirrus, for instance, are named from the Latin for a lock of hair. The low, solid-looking Cumulus are named from the Latin for a heap or stack. The disk-shaped clouds that hover downwind of mountain peaks get their lenticularis name from the Latin for a lentil. So what would we call this formation, spotted over Khumbu Himal in Nepal by Michael Kehl (Member 7,703), the Cloud of the Month for September?

Actually, the correct classification for this cloud is not too clear. We’ve often seen clouds like these forming in the fierce turbulent air flow when stiff winds blow over steep mountain peaks. In our opinion, this particular form of turbulence clouds don’t really have a satisfactory classification. We’ve always thought they look rather like eyebrows. In fact, we once enquired from Rick LaFleur, Franklin Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of Georgia, US, what an appropriate Latin name might be for clouds that look like raised eyebrows. He suggested the term ‘superciliaris’, which is Latin for ‘(of or related to) an eyebrow’. Sounds good to us.

Of course there is nothing official about superciliaris clouds. Nothing official yet…

Altocumulus ‘superciliaris’ clouds spotted over Khumbu Himal in Nepal by Michael Kehl (Member 7,703).

  •  avatar

    Robert L.

    September 18, 2019 at 12:06 am

    I see an evil face with a long nose

  • Patricia Kathryn Utley avatar

    Patricia Kathryn Utley

    September 18, 2019 at 12:19 am

    When I first saw this photo, I thought I saw another snow covered mountain. Then it seemed a reflection of the mountain itself. They say mountains make their own weather and I wonder if that can create a reflection of the mountain itself sometimes, or indeed its spirit. Monte Sancto works for me.

  • Patricia Kathryn Utley avatar

    Patricia Kathryn Utley

    September 18, 2019 at 1:15 am

    Just a post script on my very poor Latin. Spiritus Montis was my intention. : )

  • Leigh Bunting avatar

    Leigh Bunting

    September 18, 2019 at 1:36 am

    Us glider pilots would just call it ‘rotor cloud’ and best avoided because of the turbulence. To the right there is a hint of lenticularis, which is probably above the rotor and would be laminar flow with smooth lift on the windward side.

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