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New Cloud Type? Meet Asparatus!

4:36 PM, Sep 19, 2012   |    comments
  • Courtesy: National Geographic
  • Courtesy: Squidoo
  • Courtesy: National Geographic
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Meteorologists are seeking to formally recognize a new cloud variety, making it the first since 1951! Meet Asparatus! Specifically, Undulatus Asparatus, meaning "rough waves" in Latin.

As you can see in this video, rain showers or thunderstorms push out, and they are followed by dry, cooler air. That forms these wave-like clouds. However, even though the clouds look very ominous, they do not produce rain. On the backside of many convective showers, warm air and cold air come together, which causes the air to become quite turbulent, and you can see that in the "rough wave" clouds.

Typically they are low level clouds, seen around the level of 6000 feet. These are most commonly seen in New Zealand, along with the central part of the U.S. and Canada, but can be seen anywhere if the weather conditions are right.

Meteorologists and "cloudspotters" around the world are seeking to formally recognize the first new cloud variety discovered since 1951.

So, is this officially a new cloud?

"It will only become an official classification if it is included in the World Meteorological Organization's reference book, the International Cloud Atlas," explains Gavin Pretor-Pinney, president of the Cloud Appreciation Society (CAS). This new cloud obviously thrills the folks over at the CAS, whose website says "we love clouds, we're not ashamed to say it and we've had enough of people moaning about them."

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva has the final say in cloud classification by publishing it in the official Cloud Atlas list.

Keep in mind, the WMO doesn't exactly move fast on new information like this, meaning a new book is likely still a few years away. "The last time they did a new edition of the book was in 1975," Pretor-Pinney says.

However, CAS is trying to help the process out. There is a new iPhone app coming out that will gather geo-tagged cloud sightings from around the world, that will be shared with Reading University. This will allow researchers to study the photos, knowing the location and weather conditions at the time the photo was taken, to better understand how they form.

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