Life would be so dull if we had only clear blue skies and sunshine every day without a threatening cloud in sight. Earth is a lush, watery, blue-green planet, our life depends on water and we are watery beings. Without water, Earth would be cloudless, there would be no rain, no plants, no sea, no rivers and no life.
Clouds are the magic show of the sky. Continually moving, appearing and disappearing, they can be rolling, fluffy, fleecy, floaty, feathery, blobby, wispy and ethereal, as well as milky, misty, foggy, gloomy, dense, dark, brooding, stormy, threatening and ominous. Contemplating the why, the how, the where do they go is endlessly fascinating.
At fforest, living as we do on the edge of the Gulf Stream, where hot air from the south moves up over the sea to the north, continuously bringing endless watery clouds and weather, we spend a lot of time talking and thinking, looking and wondering what the sky is going to give us each day.
Gazing up at the sky will fill you with awe and wonder. You’ll be humbled at the sheer beauty of our world, the skies above it and the constantly moving and floating shapes that filter the light and shift the colours.
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Here in the UK, where we get a lot of rain, clouds can be viewed negatively, ‘a cloud on the horizon’ means something threatening or bad is going to happen.
Across the world, clouds can induce very different feelings. In Iran, clouds are considered lucky. It is a blessing to say ‘your sky is always filled with clouds.’ Rain dances were common to many cultures in areas of drought and were done to encourage clouds and rain to water the land for the crops.
5 clouds to look out for when cloud watching
Cumulus clouds are the fair weather clouds that look just like the ones children draw: rounded, puffy, brilliant blobs of cotton-wool fluff on a sunny day. They tend to have a flattish bottom, appear late morning, billow across the sky during the day, then fade away towards evening.
Stratus clouds are often filled with a light misty drizzle. They hang low in the sky as flat, featureless, dull and dreary uniform layers of greyish cloud that resemble the fog that hugs the horizon.
Cirrus clouds are thin, white, feathery, delicate, wispy strands of cloud made from ice crystals that streak across the sky, swept along by high winds. They form above 6,000 metres (20,000 feet) and typically occur in fair weather. When they gather and clutter it can mean storms are brewing.
Nimbus clouds are the bearers of rain. Large and greyish black in colour, they’re drifting and spreading blankets of cloud hanging low across the sky, carrying huge amounts of water that comes down as rain, rain, rain.
Cumulonimbus clouds grow and bulge like cauliflower florets. They tower high into the sky, their bottoms dark, flat and hazy and full of water. They bring the promise of severe weather, hail, thunder rolls, lightning crashes, pouring rain and storms.
Extract from fforest by Sian Tucker, published by Kyle Books, priced £20. Photography by Finn Beales.