A New Kind of Cloud? Say Hello to the Undulatus Asperatus

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undulatus asperatus cloud

Agathman/CC BY 3.0

Full of forms yet formless, clouds are immeasurably fascinating (and we're speaking about the natural kind, not the cloud computing kind). If you're really into cloud-spotting, then know you're not alone: the UK-based Cloud Appreciation Society (CAS) has been documenting and showcasing various member-submitted cloud photos online since 2005. Most recently, the CAS is trying to get a new sub-species of cloud recognized, namely the undulatus asperatus (or "agitated wave").

Spotted over numerous places like the Great Plains, France, Norway, Scotland and the UK, this darkly dynamic cloud is now the subject of focused academic research, where the findings will be used to support its recognition as a new kind of cloud. Says The Independent:

The CAS took up [undulatus asperatus'] cause, named it, and began lobbying for it to be formally recognised as a new sub-species. This is no easy matter. Getting a new kind of cloud recognised depends on the climatic conditions that create it being identified, formal acceptance by the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva, and inclusion in the International Cloud Atlas. They are not what you might call impetuous, the last atlas being produced in 1975.
undulatus asperatus cloud

Ave Maria Mõistlik/CC BY-SA 3.0

The CAS has their work cut out for them, but there is evidence that this is likely a new sub-species of cloud: according to meterologist Graeme Anderson, undulatus asperatus are similar to mammatus clouds but are shaped by high-level winds into its signature undulating appearance.

But even though cloud-watching might seem like an overly fanciful thing to do, CAS founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney explains the significance of such an activity, saying that "Observing the clouds is an important way of documenting the effect of global warming on the sky. Clouds may provide answers about temperature and climate change in years to come."

The 30,000-strong CAS will have more spotters soon; they plan to release a geo-tagging app that will feed directly into Reading University's labs to better understand the mechanisms behind cloud formations.