Cloud atlas

Cloud atlas

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A cloud atlas is a pictorial key to the nomenclature
Nomenclature is a term that applies to either a list of names or terms, or to the system of principles, procedures and terms related to naming - which is the assigning of a word or phrase to a particular object or property...

 of cloud
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and/or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. They are also known as aerosols. Clouds in Earth's atmosphere are studied in the cloud physics branch of meteorology...

s. Early cloud atlases were an important element in the training of meteorologists and in weather forecasting
Weather forecasting
Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a given location. Human beings have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia, and formally since the nineteenth century...

, and the author of a 1923 atlas stated that "increasing use of the air as a means of transportation will require and lead to a detailed knowledge of all the secrets of cloud building."


Throughout the 19th century nomenclatures and classifications of cloud types were developed, followed late in the century by cloud atlases. The first nomenclature ("naming", also "numbering") of clouds in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, by Luke Howard
Luke Howard
Luke Howard FRS was a British manufacturing chemist and an amateur meteorologist with broad interests in science...

, was published in 1802. It followed a similar effort in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck , often known simply as Lamarck, was a French naturalist...

 in 1801. Howard's nomenclature defined four fundamental types of clouds: cirrus
Cirrus cloud
Cirrus clouds are atmospheric clouds generally characterized by thin, wispy strands, giving them their name from the Latin word cirrus meaning a ringlet or curling lock of hair...

 or thread-cloud, cumulus
Cumulus cloud
Cumulus clouds are a type of cloud with noticeable vertical development and clearly defined edges. Cumulus means "heap" or "pile" in Latin. They are often described as "puffy" or "cotton-like" in appearance. Cumulus clouds may appear alone, in lines, or in clusters...

 or heap-cloud, stratus
Stratus cloud
A stratus cloud is a cloud belonging to a class characterized by horizontal layering with a uniform base, as opposed to convective clouds that are as tall or taller than wide . More specifically, the term stratus is used to describe flat, hazy, featureless clouds of low altitude varying in color...

 or flat cloud (level sheet), and nimbus
-General meanings:* Nimbus cloud, a cloud that produces precipitation* Halo , light or mist from an object* Halo , the disk or ring around the head of a sacred figure-Specific meanings:* Nimbus , A video game...

 or rain-cloud (see Classification of clouds). There followed a long period of development of the field of meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

 and the classification of clouds, leading up to 1896, the International Year of Clouds. The history of this period is the subject of a popular book, The Invention of Clouds. During that time, the Englishmen Rev. Clement Ley and Hon. Ralph Abercromby, were influential. Both men died before the classification was settled, however. Ley wrote a book, Cloudland, that is well known to meteorologists. Abercromby contributed a number of papers on the subject, stressing the most important (and then novel) fact that clouds are the same everywhere in the world. He also wrote in collaboration with Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson
Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson
Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson was a Swedish meteorologist and professor at Uppsala university between 1878 and 1907.-Biography:...

 a detailed classification of clouds. This was adopted in Hildebrandsson's 1890 Cloud Atlas.

In 1891 the International Meteorological Conference at Munich recommended the classification of Abercromby and Hildebrandsson.

In 1896 another International Meteorological Conference was held, and in conjunction with it was published the first International Cloud Atlas
International Cloud Atlas
International Cloud Atlas is a cloud atlas first published in 1896 and remaining in print since then. Its initial purposes included to aid in the training of meteorologists and to promote more consistent use of vocabulary describing clouds, both important for early weather forecasting...

. It was a political and technical triumph, and an immediate de facto standard
De facto standard
A de facto standard is a custom, convention, product, or system that has achieved a dominant position by public acceptance or market forces...

. The scientific photography of clouds required several technical advances, including faster films (shorter exposures), color, and sufficient contrast between cloud and sky. It was Albert Riggenbach
Albert Riggenbach
Albert Riggenbach was a 19th century meteorologist and co-author of one of the first cloud atlases, the International Cloud Atlas. His doctoral dissertation concerned observations of the first described Bishop's Ring....

 who worked out how to increase the contrast by using a Nicol prism
Nicol prism
A Nicol prism is a type of polarizer, an optical device used to produce a polarized beam of light from an unpolarized beam. See polarized light. It was the first type of polarizing prism to be invented, in 1828 by William Nicol of Edinburgh...

 to filter polarized light. Others learned to achieve similar results using mirrors or lake surfaces, and selectively photographing in certain parts of the sky.

Many subsequent editions of International Cloud Atlas were published, including editions in 1906 and 1911. In this interval several other cloud atlases appeared, including M. J. Vincent's Atlas des Nuages (Vincent's Cloud Atlas) in 1908 in the Annales of the Royal Observatory, Brussels, Volume 20. It was based on the 1906 International Cloud Atlas, but with additions, and it classified the clouds into three group by height of the cloud base above ground: lower, middle, upper.

Notable cloud atlases

The 1890 Cloud Atlas is the first known cloud atlas and book of this title, by Hildebrandsson, Wladimir Köppen
Wladimir Köppen
Wladimir Peter Köppen was a Russian geographer, meteorologist, climatologist and botanist. After studies in St. Petersburg, he spent the bulk of his life and professional career in Germany and Austria...

, and Georg von Neumayer
Georg von Neumayer
Georg Balthazar von Neumayer , was a German polar explorer and scientist who conceived the idea of international cooperation for meteorology and scientific observation....

. It was an expensive quarto
Quarto could refer to:* Quarto, a size or format of a book in which four leaves of a book are created from a standard size sheet of paper* For specific information about quarto texts of William Shakespeare's works, see:...

 book of chromolithographs
Chromolithography is a method for making multi-color prints. This type of color printing stemmed from the process of lithography, and it includes all types of lithography that are printed in color. When chromolithography is used to reproduce photographs, the term photochrom is frequently used...

 reproducing 10 color oil paintings and 12 photographs for comparison, and was designed to explore the advantages and disadvantages of photography for the scientific illustration of cloud forms. Its printing was limited but as a proof of concept it was a great success, leading directly to the International Cloud Atlas.

The first International Cloud Atlas
International Cloud Atlas
International Cloud Atlas is a cloud atlas first published in 1896 and remaining in print since then. Its initial purposes included to aid in the training of meteorologists and to promote more consistent use of vocabulary describing clouds, both important for early weather forecasting...

was published in 1896. This was prepared by Hildebrandsson, Riggenbach, and Leon Teisserenc de Bort
Léon Teisserenc de Bort
Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort was a French meteorologist who became famous for his discovery of the stratosphere...

, members of the Clouds Commission of the International Meteorological Committee. It consists of color plates
Color printing
Color printing or Colour printing is the reproduction of an image or text in color...

 of clouds, mostly photographs but some paintings, and text in French, English, and German. The plates were selected from among 300 of the best color photographs
Color photography
Color photography is photography that uses media capable of representing colors, which are traditionally produced chemically during the photographic processing phase...

 of clouds provided by members of the commission. The atlas has remained in print since then, in multiple editions.

Cloud atlas: an artist's view of living cloud is a Japanese cloud atlas by a noted photographer, Yōzō Itō, translated into English by Shōji Ōta.

See also

  • Classification
  • List of cloud types
  • Timeline of meteorology
    Timeline of meteorology
    The Timeline of Meteorology contains events of scientific and technological advancements in the area of atmospheric sciences. The most notable advancements in observational meteorology, weather forecasting, climatology, atmospheric chemistry, and atmospheric physics are listed chronologically...

External links