We are undoubtedly still attempting to comprehend what Job asked in biblical times: “Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds?” Modern science has taught us that clouds are the fundamental components of our weather. The foundation consists of 10 major cloud types. There are cirrostratus, cirrocumulus, altostratus, altocumulus, stratocumulus, nimbostratus, and cumulonimbus clouds in addition to cirrus, stratus, cumulus, and nimbus clouds. These cloud types are classified into the four main cloud groups in the following table.
“Mackerel sky and mares tails make lofty ships carry low sails,” the earliest sky watchers observed. The mare’s tails are cirrus clouds, which, when combined with cirrocumulus, frequently signal the impending arrival of wind and rain and signal the need for low sails. The sayings “Mackerel scales, furl your sails,” and “A mackerel sky, not 24 hours dry” are other variations. “.
At altitudes of 20,000 feet (6,000 meters), these clouds can be found. The small cloud droplets in this altitude freeze into ice crystals due to the cold air. The droplets can actually exist in liquid form below 32 degrees because of their small size, and this phenomenon is known as supercooling. As prisms, the ice crystals divide light into its various colors. A red sky in the morning and at night is one of the spectacular optical effects that high clouds can produce. Cirrostratus clouds, which appear as thin sheets across the sky, join the cirrus clouds in this grouping. The thin, feathery cirrus clouds thicken to form cirrostratus. Cirrostratus allows light from the sun or moon to pass through, frequently creating a halo. Cirrocumulus clouds, which resemble small, rounded cotton balls, can also thicken into cirrus clouds. The term “mackerel sky” refers to a sky full of cirrocumulus because they can occasionally resemble fish scales. These tall clouds are the first to appear as a storm approaches. They are great clues to impending weather changes.
Warm air often streams ahead of storms. Forced to ascend over colder surface air is this warm, less dense air. From a specific storm center, that warmer air can travel a thousand miles, and as it soars to great heights, it cools and creates the high clouds. First those thin, wispy cirrus clouds appear. Then they thicken to cirrostratus and cirrocumulus. At that time, the sun and moon begin to form halos and rings, and storms may form within the next day. Later, as the storm approaches, the clouds get denser and start to descend.
In general, middle clouds develop at altitudes between 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) and 20,000 feet (6,000 meters). These clouds can contain both water droplets and ice crystals because they are lower in altitude than high-flying clouds. The “alto” clouds fall in this category: altostratus and altocumulus.
The cirrostratus clouds resemble the altostratus clouds, but the latter are thicker and lower. More of the sun or moon will be obscured. These clouds, unlike cirrostratus, do not create haloes and block out enough light to leave few, if any, shadows on the ground.
Likewise, altocumulus clouds are thicker and lower versions of cirrocumulus. The tiny cotton ball appearance thickens into larger round masses. The sky is thick, so it looks gray rather than white. We know that rain is just a few hours away once this middle group of clouds replaces the high cirrus clouds.
Except in the winter, when snow becomes a possibility, these clouds form at elevations below 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) and are primarily made of water. This category includes Stratus clouds, also known as fog clouds. Nimbostratus are low stratus clouds that start to produce rain. The base of this cloud is flat and appears dark and gray. The storm has arrived when nimbostratus appears. The precipitation is steady, not showery. The rain typically falls at a light to moderate rate and lasts for most of the day or even longer. It’s time to curl up with a big, thick Russian novel when Nimbostratus appears.
Stratocumulus clouds are rounded, puffy masses that can occasionally form in stratus clouds. These are different from altocumulus in that they are larger round masses, which can give the sky an ominous and dark appearance. These are the most challenging clouds to identify; whenever I can’t quite tell what a particular cloud is, stratocumulus always appears. It can be confused with other low cloud types. When a stratus layer is heated and the atmosphere starts to overturn, stratocumulus frequently forms. That process of overturning from heating is called convection. It becomes crucial in the following group of clouds.
Let’s first examine a distinct cousin of the cloud, though. Fog is a form of stratus cloud. Although all fog can move slowly on tiny cat feet, there are many different kinds of fog.
Anything that can raise the relative humidity to 100% is the primary factor in fog formation. Typically, fog will arrive when the temperature drops to the dew point. That cooling may occur during a clear, calm night. The earth will radiate the day’s accumulated heat, causing the temperature close to the ground to drop. It might get as cold as the dew point. Because it is caused by radiational cooling, or cooling brought on by the radiating of heat from the ground, that type of fog is known as radiation fog. Because the wind is more likely to be light there, this kind of fog frequently forms in valleys. This type of fog won’t form in a gusty wind because the atmosphere will remain mixed and won’t likely cool to the dew point as quickly.
“The earth is refreshed by frequent showers when clouds appear like rocks and towers.” Some sudden and violent showers are approaching when mountains and cliffs appear in the clouds. “.
When warm air is forced over a colder surface, fog of a different type forms. When warm air comes into contact with a colder surface, it cools and, as its temperature drops to the dew point, fog forms. This fog frequently develops when warm air flows over a frozen or snow-covered surface during a winter thaw. Fog is often said to be a great snow-eater. But it doesn’t appear and begin munching on the snow. The fog is a result of the warm air, which also melts the snow.
Similar formations of fog are frequent over the ocean and in coastal regions. Warm air streams over a colder ocean surface. When the air reaches its dew point, fog will quickly cover the ocean’s surface and nearby shores. It won’t take much to cool the air to its dew point if it is tropical, has a lot of water vapor, and has a high dew point. (Of course, if the water is cold, that also helps. ) Early summer is a favorite time for coastal fog. Warm air is advected, or brought to, colder regions, thus the name “advection fog” for the entire category of fog.
We have examined clouds that can be found at particular levels of the atmosphere thus far. Others can be discovered extending through all elevations. These are the ones associated with strong upward atmospheric currents. These updrafts distribute the moisture across a sizable column of the atmosphere, giving the clouds an inflated, even tower-like appearance. Convection plays a big role in delivering these updrafts. In fact, these clouds are often called convective clouds. Convective precipitation is a term used frequently to describe the rain that emanates from them. On a hot summer day, the atmosphere can cook like a pot of boiling water, which results in the appearance of these convective clouds. The precipitation is often heavy, but not necessarily long-lasting. “The sharper the rain, the shorter the shower,” as the saying goes “.
The basic cumulus clouds fall into this category. Sometimes these puffy clouds are limited in vertical development. They look innocent enough and take on different shapes. These are fair-weather clouds. These clouds can appear in the sky simply because of the day’s normal heating. On other occasions, however, the upward motions are strong and the cumulus clouds form towers, which can group and develop into a thunderstorm in less than an hour. Cumulonimbus is the name for those enormous cumulus clouds that produce rain, lightning, and thunder. They can reach heights of 50,000 feet or more, or just a few thousand feet above the ground. The bigger they grow, the more violent the weather becomes. Hail will often fall from these clouds. Even tornadoes are possible when cumulonimbus clouds appear.
excerpted from Mel Goldstein, Ph.D.’s The Complete Idiots Guide to Weather, 2002 D. All rights, including the right to reproduce in whole or in part and in any format, are reserved. Used by agreement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc. member Alpha Books.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. A mackerel sky, also known as a collection of rows of altocumulus and cirrocumulus clouds, is a stunning sight. It sometimes resembles fish scales in the sky and takes the form of a rippling pattern. This is brought on by mid-level moisture that becomes trapped between dry air at the surface and high-altitude dry cold air. The wind and gravity is what causes the rippled look.
Cirrocumulus is typically a good indicator that the weather is about to change because it can frequently appear before a warm front. The barometric pressure starts to drop when these high clouds appear, which typically indicates that precipitation linked to a disturbance is 6 to 12 hours away. It’s a good indication that the warm front may be approaching and that it could begin to rain in less than six hours when the clouds begin to thicken and the cloud base lowers into altostratus or altocumulus.
Please refer to Tristan Gooley’s book The Secret World of Weather for a list of additional weather indicators.
The simple part is this: any kind of mackerel sky indicates that change is likely to occur. This is reflected in the associated weather lore:
The sky cleared shortly after I snapped the top photo of the altocumulus mackerel sky, and we had a beautiful day and night.
Altocumulus and cirrocumulus are the two types of clouds that can produce a mackerel sky, and knowing the difference between them will help us determine whether the change is for the better or worse.
An altocumulus mackerel sky (also known as altocumulus undulatus) frequently has long, thick lines that run parallel to the direction of the upper wind. The clouds will be thick and opaque in nature (see main image above). This suggests that change is on the horizon, though an improvement is about as likely as bad weather. To determine what will happen next, we need a few more signs.
Do these old weather lore rhymes still hold water today? And what do they have to do with fish?
Here at Farmers’ Almanac, one of our favorite topics is weather lore. Our most read weather lore tale is about the warning signs of a harsh winter, which we share every fall with our readers. But there are numerous other proverbs that have been passed down from our ancestors, who used nature to predict the future. How many of these weather lore proverbs involving fish have you heard?
If you like weather proverbs, you might be aware of a particular fish that appears in several of them:
Tall ships carry low sails because of mare’s tails and mackerel scales.
Although it is a beautiful rhyme, most people won’t understand it. What does it mean?.
This bit of weather lore isn’t exactly about fish. In the rhyme, cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds—middle-level, heap-like clouds that frequently appear in rows, resembling sand ripples in a tidal pool or, more precisely, the scales on a mackerel—are referred to as “mackerel scales.” Mares’ tails, which are thin, wispy cirrus clouds that are a sign of powerful high-level winds, are described.
These clouds are affected by swiftly moving, changing winds that are typical of an approaching low-pressure system.
The combination of “mare’s tail” cirrus clouds and “mackerel scales” altocumulus clouds signaled worsening weather conditions, so the sails should be lowered to protect the ship from high winds and precipitation.
Another old proverb about the weather also features the scaly fish:
Mackerel sky, mackerel sky, Never long wet, never long dry.
A mackerel sky is referred to as such when it is covered in the same puffy altocumulus and cirrocumulus clouds that are arranged in a wave pattern, with blue sky peeping through to resemble the mackerel’s scales.
When altocumulus clouds were visible and the air pressure started to drop, mariners could anticipate rain. However, it would only mean rain for a brief period of time (“never long wet”) because the precipitation will move quickly along with the warm front.
Speaking of fish, you might be familiar with another popular weather proverb involving trout:
Trout jump high When rain is nigh.
When rain is “nigh” or approaching, a low-pressure system is typically present. This can cause plant particles trapped at the lake’s bottom to rise, providing food for small fish. Of course, larger fish like trout eat the smaller fish as food. So you may see them jumping as they feast.
To get weather forecasts today, we use weather apps on our smartphones and rely on our neighborhood meteorologists (as well as your Farmers’ Almanac, of course). Even sailors use cutting-edge technology, such as weather buoys in the oceans, to help them navigate. But despite the fact that these proverbs are no longer widely used, we can see that they are still true.
This article was published by the staff at Farmers Almanac. Contact us if you have a query or a suggestion for a piece of writing!
What type of cloud is mackerel sky?
MEMPHIS, Tenn. A mackerel sky, also known as a collection of rows of altocumulus and cirrocumulus clouds, is a stunning sight. It sometimes resembles fish scales in the sky and takes the form of a rippling pattern.
What do mackerel clouds indicate?
A lot of cirrocumulus clouds, also known as “mackerel clouds,” typically appear before a warm front. Warm fronts can bring veering winds and precipitation. This adage about weather describes how a sailor would react if he saw “mackerel scales” coming.
What is a mackerel sky called?
Wispier, patchier, higher clouds make up a cirrocumulus mackerel sky (see image below). There are no thick lines and the clouds appear translucent. These clouds may appear ahead of a front and the ensuing bad weather. Cirrocumulus, also known as “mares’ tails,” is frequently found with wispy cirrus.
How is a mackerel sky formed?
This is due to mid level moisture that is trapped between surface dry air and cold, dry air that is filtering in the upper atmosphere. The rippled pattern in the thin cloud layer is the result of the interaction between wind and gravity. Because of how much its scale pattern resembles that of a mackerel fish, it is known as a mackerel sky.