Cloud Studies {Free eBook}

Cloud Studies by Arthur W. Clayden is an excellent introduction to clouds that begins with the language and classification of clouds while at the same time encouraging observation.

Written by the then principal of the Royal Albert Memorial College at Exeter, the author sought to bring cloud science out of its infancy:

The observational part of cloud study, however, is still in its infancy, in spite of the fact that it has been going on for such countless ages. We are still in the condition of the humble observers engaged in the comparatively humdrum task of gathering facts for future arrangement and interpretation.

Cloud observers, in all ages, have suffered from a peculiar difficulty. They have had no common language, no code of signs by which they could benefit from the work of those who had gone before them, no means of transmitting their own experience to each other, or to those who would come after them. No progress would be possible in any study under such conditions, for each person would begin where the previous generation began, instead of taking up the task where others had left it.

In all languages there is an extraordinary scarcity of cloud names, and such as do exist are frequently applied to quite different forms by different people. So pronounced is this lack of terms, that any one who tries to describe a sky without using any of the modern scientific names, finds himself obliged to rely on long detailed descriptions, backed with references to well-known objects, whose outlines or structures resemble the clouds more or less vaguely; and even then he has to be a word-painter of singular skill if his description calls up in the mind of the reader a picture much like the original.

The rather long quote above points out the problems the author was trying to overcome. Of course, in our time science has provided a classification system that helps us talk about clouds in a more uniform way.

The book includes 62 illustrations, albeit black and white. With online access, it should be easy to find similar color representations (see the resources below).

You’ll also find cloud groupings and nomenclature listed in the back of the book for easy reference.

The author repeatedly refers to Mr. Ley, who had published a study of his own observations in a book called Cloudland. Mr. Ley’s attempts at classification were overshadowed by the International Meteorological Committee’s adoption of the system we have today. Nevertheless, you’ll find a link to Mr. Ley’s book if you have time to explore his very interesting descriptions of clouds — and the descriptive names he assigns them.

Cloud Studies, then, is really a series of observations by the author of each type of cloud, the subtypes, how different types of clouds act, and what the various clouds portend.

Most of us are students of the sky. Cloud Studies provides a bit of structure for our observations — and it is free!

  • Here is an idea. While studying the clouds, illustrate them:

    To the artist I trust [the following pages] may also be of some use, by calling attention to the variety and exquisite beauty of the sky. Nothing is more extraordinary in art than the general negligence of cloud-forms. Many of them are quite as worthy of careful drawing as the leaves of a tree, the flowers of a field, the ripples on a stream, or the texture of a carpet, or a marble pavement. Yet it is the common rule to find pictures, which are otherwise marvellous examples of skill and care, disfigured by impossible skies with vague, shapeless clouds, as untrue to nature as it would be possible to make them. Grace of outline, delicacy of detail and texture, richness of contrast, beauty of form and light and colour, all are present in the skies, and combine to make a whole well worthy of the best that art can give.

  • Make a cloud notebook. Decorate a cover. Include your illustrations and descriptions of each cloud described.
  • Create an outline for your studies similar to the one found in the introduction.
  • Add vocabulary where appropriate.
  • You’ll find a handy cloud chart to include in your notebook in the resources below.
Free eBook

Additional Resources

International Cloud Atlas (Online Interactive)
One of the references offered in the back of the book, the International Cloud Atlas has been in publication since 1896. Color images are available online by classification.

International Cloud Atlas
The 1987 color PDF edition.

Solar Halo
A color image of a halo created by ice crystals in a cirrus cloud (one of the first images in the book).

The Cloud Book

The Cloud Book by Tomie de Poala
Resource so that younger ones can follow along. Covers the ten most common cloud types from a favorite author.

Cloudland by Clement Ley
The reference book the author repeatedly refers to.

Lesson Plans & Unit Studies

Free Nature Studies: Sky & Clouds
Part of our free nature studies dealing with clouds. Tons of resources here!

Sun Dogs: A Unit Study on Light & Optics
Fun rabbit trail.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Cloud Chart {Free}
Excellent resource for notebook from NOAA. Includes examples of the clouds described with helpful information on the back.

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}
Free pages for creating a cloud journal.