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.