Cloud watching for beginners
July 25, 2016 8:55 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to get into cloud identification as a hobby? I'm mainly interested in learning the vocabulary and how to talk about and describe clouds—not the satellite imaging / meteorology / weather predicting side.

Please don't just google 'cloud identification chart' and show me the results, I know there are lots out there but I found it overwhelming to try to take in all at once so I'm hoping for recommendations of resources or methods that slowly build knowledge or have some kind of game or structure to them to help you learn bit by bit or things that you have used personally and liked. Books, websites, apps, whatever — the end goal is to build necessary vocabulary in a fun, gradual way and to have something we can take with us on picnic type dates or quickly reference while lying in the hammock in our back yard.
posted by metaphorever to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've been absolutely charmed and delighted by the book The Cloudspotter's Guide, written by the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. I've definitely been looking at the sky with new eyes since I started it - it's deeply educational, but in a fun and engaging way. It's the kind of book you hang on to for along time after finishing it, as there's always something to keep going back to.
posted by harujion at 9:21 AM on July 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

I have an older edition of this Audubon field guide, it's wonderful and has numerous full color plates. Easily portable and fascinating.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 9:24 AM on July 25, 2016

Yes, one more vote for The Cloudspotter's Guide.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:50 AM on July 25, 2016

Have you considered putting your hobby to work too? National Weather Service could use your help as a SKYWARN Storm Spotter. They'll train you too.

SKYWARN: Their classes and classes might have ended until next winter and spring but they might have online resources still available.
Cooperative Weather Observer and CWO and here too
posted by dlwr300 at 9:52 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

for your more exotic clouds, a surprising resource is The Astronomy Picture of the least once or twice a month, they'll post a picture of a weird cloud formation here on earth, with a roll cloud or lenticular clouds or crepuscular rays, etc. (hitting 'search' and typing 'cloud' brought up like 1200 results...many are nebulae, but hey, space clouds are clouds too, they just last longer ;)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:02 AM on July 25, 2016

I think the first step is to pay attention to the sky and the clouds every day. Look up when you walk out the door, pay attention to the weather forecast so you notice when they get it wrong and when they get it right. If you only pay attention to the clouds and the weather sporadically, then it's hard to see the larger patterns and harder to understand what particular clouds are telling you. But if you pay attention to the sky for a while and try and describe things using your own words, it will be easier to remember which clouds are which when you go back and look at reference materials, and easier to remember what different clouds mean when you've already started to notice some of the patterns.
posted by colfax at 10:07 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Join the Cloud Appreciation Society
posted by at at 11:28 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

The only time I ever did this was when school made me. Specifically, 5th grade (I think?) science class. I vaguely remember that our science teacher introduced us to 4 or 5 major types of clouds (cumulus, cumulonimbus, etc), and then we talked about it for the next 2-4 weeks in class. We viewed a lot of slides and went outside and looked at the sky. So, not a recommendation per se, but maybe start with a kid's textbook from your local library?

FWIW, I felt like the "this cloud means 50% chance of rain in the next 1-2 days" part was pretty cool, even though it didn't make me want to get into meteorology.
posted by Phredward at 11:41 AM on July 25, 2016

Another vote for The Cloud Appreciation Society.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2016

I third the recommendation of the Cloudspotter's Guide linked to above.
posted by tavegyl at 3:11 AM on July 26, 2016

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