ABC of Weather: Clouds

I think the biggest proportion of all the time I've 'wasted' in my life so far is that spent watching clouds. I find them fascinating because they're ever changing - unless it's an unusually cloudless day of course. From the wispiest of clouds like the pictured cirrus, through to the threatening anvil shaped cumulonimbus of an approaching storm, they also form a rough guide to the weather we can expect over the next few hours.

On the project I'm involved in Mallorca, I've been given the nickname 'weather woman' because I've managed to quickly absorb (without realising it) how the subtle changes in the haziness of the nearby mountains and any cloud cover they have affects the weather later on that day. It's proved useful on many occasions when arranging our fieldwork for the day. The work's outdoors in a reed bed and the last thing you want to be is the tallest thing around when a violent Mediterranean storm suddenly blows up!

Clouds as a rough weather guide is also enshrined in our weather lore. There's the classic mackerel sky not 24 hours dry - which forecasts the impending deterioration of our weather after the appearance of cirrocumulus clouds. These clouds - like cirrus - are an indication of an approaching weather front. They gradually pick up more moisture, thus thickening and extending downwards to become low-level clouds which bear rain. The appearance of these clouds can look just like the patterns found on mackerel, hence their common name.

My mum's into very short-term weather forecasting. She'll often say it's black over Bill's mother's, meaning it's going to rain very shortly. It's a brummie and black country phrase and Bill is thought to refer to William Shakespeare. As Stratford upon Avon (Shakespeare's birthplace) is south-west of Birmingham and most of our rainy weather comes from that direction, there might be a grain of truth in the story.

Perhaps it's my mum's influence which got me interested in cloud watching in the first place. What's surprised me in putting this piece together is how little that of fascination has found its way into my vast library of photographs. Perhaps I need to remedy that by joining the Skywatch Friday meme, or The Cloud Appreciation Society?

How's the weather with you today?

For more Captivating C's, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.


  1. I'm with you, I love staring at clouds. Magnificent.
    You'll find mine here.

  2. Anyone who has visited my blog knows how I love clouds and watch them and photograph them day after day, so I really enjoyed your post! Hope your week is off to a great start and that you have lots of lovely clouds!


  3. Ever changing clouds are so fascinating! I love to be relaxed enough to notice them moving across the sky!

  4. I love looking at clouds out of my attic windows. Because they're Velux roof lights, all you can see are clouds and birds, which is incredibly relaxing. But my favourite cloud picture of all is this one....

  5. I don't think you can 'waste' time looking at clouds. The topic reminds me of that Joni Mitchell song, covered by Judy Collins:

    Rows and flows of angel hair,
    And ice cream castles in the air,
    And feather canyons everywhere,
    I've looked at clouds that way.

    But now they only block the Sun,
    They rain and snow on everyone.
    So many things I would have done,
    But clouds got in my way.

    I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
    From up and down, and still somehow,
    It's cloud illusions I recall,
    I really don't know clouds, at all.

    On behalf of the ABC Wednesday team, thank you!

  6. I love this post! Your narrative is fascinating and it's too cool that you can forecast the day's weather. Sounds like you and your mom share a lot and that's a good thing!

  7. Wow, the same song popped into my head (Joni Mitchell's 'Clouds') as it did for Roger. We get great clouds up here on our Fundy hill, partly because we have so much sky around us due to not being hemmed in by a town and other houses, etc.
    Weather here is awesomely cold, but the wind diminished and it's been sunny, if frigid, for two days. I can deal with cold if it's sunny. Out of the wind, there's heat in that sun, too. We'll make it. We will.

  8. I'm with Roger, that song came to my mind too. I love watching clouds.

  9. Do you know, I have used the "Black over Bill's mother's" saying all my life, and like you have Made in Birmingham stamped on every moving part, but I have never known the (possible) origin before. What a mine of useful information you are VP.

  10. A mackerel sky is one of my favourites.

    I've decided to take more note of which direction gulls face when they are sitting down. I'm assuming it's into the wind so their feathers don't get ruffled. They would make good chimney pot weather vains for when I can't be bothered to open the door and find out for myself.


  11. I'm a long time member of The Cloud Appreciation Society! Flighty xx

  12. I'm with Esther on the mackeral sky - we had some wonderful ones just before Christmas but guess who never had her camera with her

  13. VP, I started to say much the same that Roger wrote...I will be singing those lyrics all day! Youtube hear/here I come!

    ps I love to cloud watch, too. Today the sky is a solid gray

  14. Oh wow, what lovely clouds. I wish there are clouds like these where I am!

    Very nice shot.

  15. I, too, was brought up with it being 'a bit black over Bill's mother's' but am from around 30 miles south of Brum - Malvern.

    I love cloud watching - just as well, as we have quite a few of them in the UK! It would be nice to have the occasional day without them though...

  16. Black over Bill's mother's? What a picturesque phrase! LOL!

    I think the most fascinating thing about clouds is this: all the world's water is recycled constantly, yes? So that water in your clouds maybe was once part of the snows on Kilimanjaro, and will be rained down on you. Even more fascinating (though some find it creepy) is the fact that some of the water up there might once have been breathed in as water vapour by your great-great-grandfather, or the Queen, or Ghengis Khan or Tiberius, or possibly all of the above!

  17. I should be a betting woman :) Could watch them all day except for when there's no break in them like today!

  18. Hi everyone - glad you liked my musing about clouds. And I'm touched how it's struck a musical chord with a number of you, especially Roger.

    anthonynorth, Carolyn, Rajesh and snapperoni - a very warm welcome to Veg Plotting :D

  19. Cloud watching is an art form lost over the decades. I'm sure the Native Americans and our frontier forefathers/mothers watched the skies constantly. While we don't need to do it now for survival, it does feed the soul.


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