“As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming bronze.”
When I read these words from Ezekiel, the storm was raging outside – wind whistled round the old stone buildings of Selkirk and rain hammered on windows and ground. I was cocooned. I wondered how many people have lived here before me.
Strangely, I opened a story earlier on from the National Geographic that a friend had put on facebook. There was a picture of the most sumptuous movement of colour. When I clicked on it I was taken to the news pages of the National Geographic.
The image was of a cloud that gleamed, it looked to be made up of gold dust. It flowed like a wave – bending and twisting. Three other photographs accompanied the article, including one from Scotland – molten silver shot with pink hues.
The common theme is that the clouds photographed over Iowa, New Zealand, England and Scotland are all examples of what is considered to be a new classification of cloud.
Undulatus asperatus is the provisional name that Gavin Pretor-Pinney has given to this sensational cloud form. This Latin name can be translated clumsily as turbulent, violent, chaotic form of undulation.
The cloud form, first named in 2009, unlike some that are similar, does not precede a storm, despite the angry nature of its visual presentation. Experts have theorized that the undulating undersides of asperatus clouds are due to strong winds disturbing previously stable layers of warm and cold air.
Since June 2009, the Royal Meteorological Society has been studying the weather patterns that surround the phenomenon of asperatus clouds. In the plains of America, where they are most commonly observed, they seem to appear in the hours following convective thunderstorm activity.
However, one school of thought is strongly opposed to the belief that we have a new cloud form. These students of the sky claim that this cloud phenomenon is caused by chemtrails.
Chemtrails are the result of biochemical spraying from aircraft. The term chemtrail was coined by an investigative journalist from Canada, William Thomas. He is mentioned as the person who first uncovered and made public an allegedly enigmatic contrail issue which was also said to have medical ramifications.
For the conspiracy theorists, a chemtrail differs from a normal contrail (the vapour trail left by a high-flying aircraft) in several ways. Firstly, it does not dissipate as rapidly; secondly, it can create a curtain like fall-off or it may grow into a cirrus like cloud cover; thirdly, it will not be left along normal flight corridors and lastly it may also leave a metallic odour.
In my ignorance I cannot connect the descriptions of the alleged chemtrails with National Geographic’s photo gallery of the thick and buckled bases of the undulatus asperatus clouds. I also think that the repercussions to the health of populations are more likely to occur as a result of increased intercontinental travel.
As I am no expert concerning the science of the skies I stand accused as one who is happy to accept the apparently childlike explanation that the newest recorded cloud forms are just that. There have been no new cloud types recorded since 1951. The increased sightings of asperatus clouds may simply be the result of digital photography enabling more people to capture the occurrence of them.
Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society and author of The Cloud Collector’s Handbook, pertinently points out: “Even if you live in the middle of the city, the sky is the last wilderness you can look out on.”
My friend, Susan, used to tease me about joining the Cloud Appreciation Society, She is right, though, I like to watch the clouds. Man has forgotten to feel small and worship the huge skies and remember that they are our protector from extinction.