Customer Review

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Look up for clouds, 31 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Cloudspotter's Guide (Paperback)
Gavin Pretor-Pinner deserves praise for taking something so obvious as clouds, and writing a whole book. We tend to take the fluffy white (or bleak grey ......) objects for granted, and many know a little about what they are composed of, and where they come from. Mr P-P is obviously something of an expert in his field, and a real enthusiast, and has caused my thoughts to be "amongst the clouds", and in that the book has achieved some success. However, can I still name the 10 cloud types, and identify them? That is a different matter.

After a general introduction, there are chapters on each of the 10 (main) cloud types. In previous eras, clouds were seen to portend the weather. In the days of the 24-hour availability of detailed meteorological forecasts, that is now hard to believe. Knowledge of cloud formations is becoming something that we do not need to know. There are detailed explanations of weather fronts, (cold front, warm front and what used to be known as occluded fronts). However, there are no weather maps as a pictorial guide, with isobars. That would have been helpful.

Generally, I liked the book more as I progressed, but the subject matter is not `a story'. Gavin writes better when the detail is linked to little anecdotes, and he has a wry sense of humour, more to make the reader weakly smile that laugh. There are informative matters of detail, so that any reader will come away with items they never knew. The style brings life to the sometimes dry subject matter of condensed water vapour, which at times left me reeling with formation details and Latin names of the sub-species of clouds.

I found that some detail of the basic cloud types merged into each other, much as a blanket of Cirrostratus. But then again, I am not a paid-up member of the Cloud Appreciation Society - yes there really is such a society, and this book resulted from that organisation, with the author as its founder. Of more interest to me was the detail about halos, and other visual effects that can be seen. Before opening this book, I had never heard of a `sundog', and am now eager to see one.

Is the weather the same now as it has always been? Mr P-P talks about climate change from a different angle, bringing this in to ways in which we have changed our clouds. This has been done both consciously (Russian attempts to ensure that the weather is fine for May day parades), and unconsciously. In the latter category come the new types of clouds that are seen high in the sky on some otherwise cloud-free days - the contrails ("condensation trails") from jet aircraft. It is interesting to note the effect that 9/11 had climate on the USA, with no aircraft flying and causing contrails for 48 hours. This resulted in an increased average difference of day-time and night-time temperatures of 1.1 degrees centigrade in tem mediate aftermath.

The last chapter details a particular cloud formation, not one of the 10 cloud types, but a spectacular, localised cloud, known as "The Morning Glory". Impressive as this is, I found it has too much coverage, and there were many more illustrations than of more widely-occurring phenomena. Awe-inspiring - yes. Worth that amount of coverage - no.

One thing is certain, I walk more with my head in the clouds, looking at the water vapour above, below and around me with a little more knowledge and detail.
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