September 10th, 2007 - LOOK UP IN THE SKY! OH, IT’S JUST A CLOUD.

As a kid, on those hot lazy days of summer, did you ever lie on the ground and watch the clouds in the sky and imagine all sorts of faces and animals in them? If you grew up in the age that I did, kids didn’t have video games, ipods, computers or air conditioning, so they spent a lot of time outdoors playing games, riding bikes and watching cloud formations for their entertainment.

Recently I saw a “PEANUTS” cartoon in the paper, where Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy, were laying on the ground, looking up in the sky and using their imagination to see different shapes in the cloud formations. This brought me back to my days as kid, doing the same thing. I remember lying on the ground with my shirt off, under a shade tree watching the clouds and imagining different shapes. Mostly I remember seeing faces. Not faces of well-known people like Abe Lincoln or cartoon characters like Batman, but just faces.

I still enjoy watching the clouds and try to imagine some sort of shape that looks to resemble something. My imagination has grown as I have grown older and I now see complex shapes or faces of well-known people. Often we will be driving down a road and I will tell Linda, my wife, “Look, that cloud looks just like Elvis Presley”. About then, she gives me “THE LOOK”, and tells me to keep my eyes on the road, then goes back to reading her book.

After I had gotten my pilot license I use to love picking out a small cloud, fly around it to make sure no other planes where in the area, then fly through it. The first time I did this it was quite a shock. How could such a fluffy thing that reminds a person of cotton candy be so turbulent inside? I soon learned not to pick one out that was too big. I just stuck to the small ones. For those of you who are wondering, yes, I was instrument rated.

These types of clouds that we daydream over are called “Cumulus”. Cumulus is the Latin word for heap. If the cloud is wider than it is tall, it is known as Cumulus humilis. Humulis means humble in Latin. These are the smallest of the Cumulus clouds. If it is as tall as it is wide, it is known as Cumulus mediocris and if it is taller than it is wide it is called Cumulus congestus. The first two species are known as fair weather clouds and do not produce any precipitation, while the congestus may have brief downpours. The base of these clouds range anywhere from 1500 to 3000 ft on the average.

I know many of you are thinking, “I thought Cumulus were the thunderstorm clouds”, and you are partially right. Any cloud can develop into a rain-bearing cloud under certain conditions. The Cumulus is no exception. It can grow into the enormous Cumulonimbus, which is the thunderstorm clouds that brings us heavy downpours, thunder and lightning and in some cases high winds and tornadoes. We will talk about these types of clouds and storms at a later date.

This is a busy world we live in today, but I would like to urge all of you to take the time, either by yourself, with your children or grandchildren and go sit under a tree and watch the clouds go by and unleash your imagination. You can never tell what you might see.

If you get hooked on cloud watching, here is a website you may be interested in looking at.

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