Clouds tells us what kind of weather we can expect each day. As a river pilot, the weather can control how you pilot a vessel, so it can become very important in keeping up with the weather.
The indications of weather as seen by the colors of the sky are very useful in predicting approaching weather conditions. A red sky at sunset predicts fine weather; a red sky in the morning, bad weather or much wind, if not rain; a gray sky in the morning, fine weather.
Soft-looking or delicate clouds foretell fine weather, with moderate or light breezes; hard-edged, oily-looking clouds, produces wind.
A dark gloomy blue sky is windy, but a light blue sky indicates fine weather. Generally, the softer the clouds look the less wind, although rain may be expected; and the harder, more “greasy,” rolled tufted, or ragged, the stronger the wind will prove.
The following listed is the cloud forms: Cirrus, Cirrocumulus, Cirrostratus, Altocumulus, Altostratus, Stratuscumulus, Stratus, Nimbostratus, Cumulus, and Cumulonimbus. The following is the definition and appearance of clouds.
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Cirrus: detached clouds, delicate and fibrous in appearance, generally white in color. Cirrus appear in the most varied combination of forms, such as tufts, lines drawn across the blue sky, branching feather-like plumes, and are often arranged in bands across the sky. These clouds are very thin and the sun and moon can be seen through them. They range in height from 20,000 to 40,000 feet. Cirrus clouds rarely result in rain.
Cirrocumulus: patches of white flakes or rounded masses without shadows, arranged in groups or in lines resembling the sand on the seashore. Cirrocumulus is often called the mackerel sky. These clouds range in height from 10,000 to 35,000 feet.
Cirrostratus: a thin whitish veil, sometimes covering the sky completely and giving it a milky appearance; at other times presenting a fibrous structure like tangled web. This cloud is responsible for halos around the sun and moon. This cloud is denser than the cirrus, though its height is about the same.
Altocumulus: large rounded masses, partially shaded, arranged in groups or lines or waves sometimes so close together that their edges join. They range in height from 2,500 to 28,000 feet. They rarely result in precipitation.
Altostratus: a dense sheet of a gray or bluish color. At times it is very dark and thick, completely hiding the sun or moon. It ranges in height from 8,000 to 32,000 feet.
Stratocumulus: large lumpy masses or rolls of dull gray, frequently covering the whole sky. This cloud form is seen more often in the winter, and its usual height is about 2,000 feet, though it may descend to 500 feet rise to 12,000.
Stratus: a uniform layer of cloud, not very thick, hovering about 1,000 feet above the ground. Stratus often results in rain or snow.
Nimbostratus: a dense layer of dark, shapeless cloud with ragged edges ranges in thickness from 500 feet to five miles, and hovers usually at height 1,000 feet. This is the cloud that brings the steady downpour.
Cumulus: a thick cloud, dome-shaped with a horizontal base, commonly known as a cauliflower cloud. It is usually very thick and usually floats at an altitude of 5,000 feet. This cloud is known as the cloud of fair weather.
Cumulonimbus: the typical thundershower cloud, appears in great masses in the form of mountains or towers. This is the thickest of all clouds, often reaching a depth of eight miles. This cloud is responsible for what is impolitely called “dirty weather.”
Charles F. Burdick is a lifelong resident of Grand Tower. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and then went on to a 42-year Maritime career including 35 years as Master Pilot. He has been retired for 27 years and enjoys local history and writing poetry.