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To many, clouds are merely part of the backdrop in a typical day. We take notice when the sky is devoid of clouds, or full of dark, menacing ones

But to the trained eye, all clouds betray a wealth of information about how the atmosphere is behaving, and what the weather is likely to bring in the near future

Broadly speaking, clouds help reveal how air and moisture are moving in the atmosphere. Or, in the words of Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the founder of the entirely real Cloud Appreciation Society, clouds can be “beacons that render the atmosphere’s movements visible.”

Sometimes these movements are violent. For example, springtime in the Great Plains brings epic clashes between summer and winter, giving rise to massive, long-lived thunderstorms known as supercells. These storms frighten and inspire, drawing thousands of storm chasers to the wheat fields of North Dakota, all the way south to the wind farm-dotted landscape of Texas. Read more…

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