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kottke.org posts about clouds

Cloud gazing in the Bristol Channel

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 03, 2019

jon-hamm-mad-men-e-14-s-7.jpg

I occasionally fantasize about ditching my iPhone and all related apps for a flip phone and fewer distractions. In this dream life, I have no notifications blinking at me, I don’t care about exes liking old Instagram photos of mine after months of not talking, I have no inbox anxiety, and I never experience a phantom buzz (currently listed on WebMD as Phantom Vibration Syndrome). I sit with a contented smile cross-legged pose overlooking a cliff. I go on long walks, surrounded by exotic flora and fauna, with big, open skies overhead. Gazing at cloud formations becomes a meditation in itself.

Please consider this my formal pitch to The New Yorker: recovering tech worker of almost a decade and a half leaves the modern world behind to look at the sky, be with nature, and attend talks amongst other cloud enthusiasts. For several blissful days on a mostly-uninhabited island (unless you count the puffins) off the North Devon coast, she exists with only a notebook, disposable camera, and her conscious awareness.

lundy-island-uk.png

Read more about the upcoming sky gathering of the Cloud Appreciation Society on the isle of Lundy and see my earlier post on this very website from the fall. There’s a lot more cloud content on kottke.org if that’s your thing.

(First image via AMC, second via CAS)

Vibrant Oil Paintings of Clouds

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2019

Ian Fisher Clouds

Ian Fisher Clouds

Ian Fisher Clouds

Ian Fisher’s paintings of clouds are surprisingly lifelike. If you scroll through the paintings on his site, you can see his representation of them improve…his most recent ones are difficult to distinguish from photographs of actual clouds.

Clouds in Unexpected Places

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2019

Cloud Sculpture

Cloud Sculpture

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde creates ephemeral water vapor sculptures (you know, clouds!) in places you normally wouldn’t find them, like inside churches & museums. He shared some of his process with National Geographic:

The ingredients for Smilde’s clouds: just smoke and water vapor. He requires a cold and damp space with no air circulation, lest the clouds never form or fall straight to the ground. He mists an area with a spray bottle to put water vapor into the air. Then he turns on fog machines that spout tiny particles, and the vapor condenses around them.

Smilde runs around the forming cloud, coaxing it into a shape about 10 feet across and six feet tall. Then he steps back long enough for a photographer to snap several images. Once the air clears, he’ll start over, repeating the process dozens of times until he’s happy with the results. Later, he’ll retouch the photos to remove his tools.

(via moss & fog)

Monsoon V

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2018

Mike Olbinski is back with another of his jawdropping storm chasing videos. I find clouds endlessly fascinating — it seems like there’s always something new to consider while watching these kinds of videos. This time around, I noticed how the clouds in several instances actually “opened up” when it started to rain, like a hatch that finally succumbed to the pressure of all that water pushing down on it. (Check out 1:38 for a particularly clear instance.)

The Cloud Appreciation Society takes a field trip

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Oct 22, 2018

Well, this sounds dreamy. The Cloud Appreciation Society (exactly what it sounds like) is hosting a gathering on the island of Lundy next spring. There are still slots available for campers.


The tiny island in the Bristol Channel off Wales, named for the Norse word for “puffin,” has a pub, a church, three lighthouses, and craggy waterfront. It sounds pretty idyllic:

In Lundy, the sea is rarely out of sight, and the views are always breathtaking. There will be plenty of time to explore the wild stretches of grassland and heath which give way to natural ponds, steep cliffs and rocky beaches. The granite crags of this dramatic landscape is the perfect frame to the drama of its skies.

The Isle of Lundy’s topography, sparse population (28 as of 2007!), and mention of puffins reminds me of Far Afield, Susana Kaysen’s witty meditation on the Faroe Islands that I read last month. Her opening chapter in the Reykjavik airport is one of the best travel scenes I’ve read in ages.

Stunning photo of a lightning storm with undulating asperitas clouds

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 01, 2018

Gabriel Zaparolli

Holy moly, would you look at this photo taken by Gabriel Zaparolli!

This photo shows a distant lightning storm and asperitas clouds looming over the outskirts of Torres, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, as observed during the evening of June 10, 2018. On this long-exposure image it seems that most of the lightning consisted of cloud-to-ground strokes. Asperitas form in convective storms when the air in downdrafts (cooled by the sublimation of ice crystals) pushes through the cloud base.

Asperitas clouds plus lightning? What a capture.

Amazing black & white storm time lapse in 8K

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2018

Storm-chasing photographer Mike Olbinski is back with a new time lapse video and this one is in black & white and was shot in 8K resolution. (BTW, 8K is 7680×4320 or 4320p. That’s a lot of K!)

Breathe is made up solely of storm clips from 2017…either from the spring across the central plains or from the monsoon here in the southwest. Some are favorites, some are just ones I knew would be amazing in monochrome and others I used because they fit the music so well.

The video was unavailable in 8K to me on both YouTube and Vimeo — maybe you need to be a paying member? — but even at 4K, this thing is hypnotically stunning. I rewound and watched the part starting at 1:39 about five times. You can see more of my posts about Olbinski here. (via colossal)

Monster thunderstorm supercell in Montana

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2017

Ryan Wunsch

This photo of a storm supercell in Montana taken by Ryan Wunsch? Wowza. I can see why people get hooked on chasing these storms about western North America…I’d love to see something like that in person. (via @meredithfrost)

Beautiful time lapse storm footage from spring 2017

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 28, 2017

Stormchaser Mike Olbinski is back with his latest time lapse video of clouds and storm footage he shot this spring.

The work on this film began on March 28th and ended June 29th. There were 27 total days of actual chasing and many more for traveling. I drove across 10 states and put over 28,000 new miles on the ol’ 4Runner. I snapped over 90,000 time-lapse frames. I saw the most incredible mammatus displays, the best nighttime lightning and structure I’ve ever seen, a tornado birth caught on time-lapse and a display of undulatus asperatus that blew my mind. Wall clouds, massive cores, supercell structures, shelf clouds…it ended up being an amazing season and I’m so incredibly proud of the footage in this film.

The lightning storms and undulatus asperatus clouds at the end of the video are just flat-out spectacular.

Unreal time lapse of undulating storm clouds at sunset

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2017

Storm-chasing photographer Mike Olbinski was recently taking photos of a storm in North Dakota close to sunset when asperitas clouds (aka undulatus asperatus clouds) appeared.

Undulatus asperatus clouds are a rare phenomenon and actually the newest named cloud type in over 60 years. I’ve seen tons of photos of them, but never anything like what we witnessed last night. We had a storm with hail in front of us and flashing lightning which was fantastic. But then we had this layer of undulatus clouds flowing across our view. Watching them was amazing already, but then the sun slowly appeared from behind some clouds to the west and lit up our storm like nothing we’ve ever seen before. We were like kids in a candy store.

Nature is ridiculous. More asperitas time lapse goodness here. (via bad astronomy)

4K supercell thunderstorm time lapse

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

I have said it before and I will say it again and you will get tired of me saying it for decades to come (or until Facebook just outright buys the internet and shuts down all independent media), but I will never ever tire of watching high-resolution time lapse videos of thunderstorms. Look at those gorgeous mammatus clouds!

Supercell thunderstorms are a manifestation of nature’s attempt to correct an extreme imbalance. The ever ongoing effort to reach equilibrium, or viscosity, is what drives all of our weather, and the force with which the atmosphere tries to correct this imbalance is proportional to the gradient. In other words, the more extreme the imbalance, the more extreme the storm.

I’ve had this up in a tab since last week but lost track of it…glad to rediscover it via Colossal.

Time lapse of a cloud inversion filling the Grand Canyon with an undulating vaporous ocean

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2017

Usually, the air nearest the Earth is the warmest and it gets cooler as the altitude increases. But sometimes, there’s a meteorological inversion and colder air gets trapped near the ground with a layer of warmer air on top. While working on a dark sky project, Harun Mehmedinovic shot a time lapse movie of a rare cloud inversion in the Grand Canyon, in which the entire canyon is filled nearly to the brim with fluffy clouds. (via colossal)

Meet this season’s hot new clouds

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2017

New clouds

New clouds

For the first time in 30 years, the world’s cloud authority has classified a dozen new types of cloud. You can find them in the International Cloud Atlas, published by the World Meteorological Organization.

The existing classifications have been reviewed and all have been retained. Several new, formal cloud classifications have been introduced. These include one new species (volutus), five new supplementary features (asperitas, cauda, cavum, fluctus and murus), and one new accessory cloud (flumen). The species floccus has been formally recognized as being able to occur in association with stratocumulus. The separate section on Special Clouds has been removed, and the cloud and meteor types previously discussed within this section have been integrated into the cloud classification scheme as cataractagenitus, flammagenitus, homogenitus, silvagenitus, and homomutatus.

The cloud in the second photo is a cavum cloud, which is not so much a cloud itself as a hole in a altocumulus or cirrocumulus cloud. The cloud in the top photo, the one that looks like a van Gogh painting, is an asperitas (formerly known as undulatus asperatus). The asperitas is best seen in motion:

Clouds crashing in the sky

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 26, 2014

There’s an incredible 16-second sequence in this video of clouds, starting at around 10 seconds in. It looks as though the sky is a roiling ocean wave about to crash on the beach. I’ve watched it approximately 90 times so far today.

It’s worth making the video fullscreen and pumping it up to the max quality (2160p!) to see it properly. (via colossal)

Thunderstorm supercells

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2014

From Stephen Locke, a time lapse video of thunderstorm supercells forming near Climax, Kansas.

Jiminy, that’s breathtaking. I didn’t know there was so much rotation involved in thunderstorms…the entire cloud structure is rotating. (via bad astronomy)

Space photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2008

Beautiful photos of the Space Shuttle lifting off and of earth from space. Check out the cloud wake and the thunderheads.

Noctilucent clouds (really high whispy clouds) were

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2007

Noctilucent clouds (really high whispy clouds) were so common where I grew up in WI that I thought they were normal. Turns out they only appear in higher latitudes, at least until recently when global warming has caused them to appear more frequently and further south.