International Cloud Atlas will feature new classifications this year

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For the first time in 30 years the International Cloud Atlas will see new names added!

The atlas is published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as a standardized reference for observations. It was first published in 1896 with only 28 cloud pictures. The newest atlas, published online March 23rd, will hold closer to 600 pictures!

This is the first atlas to be completely digitized too. The WMO wants the new atlas to reflect the new age of cloud spotting and identification, which has been been evolving rapidly with new technologies like smartphones with ever higher definition cameras. The new atlas will include 11 new cloud names, but some of the cloud formations will be familiar to you.

The following clouds are well known, but are getting a makeover with new official names:

  • Volutus - A type of roll cloud
  • Asperitas - Clouds with an underside resembling rough seas
  • Fluctus - Commonly known as Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds
  • Cavum - Commonly called fallstreak holes or hole-punch clouds
  • Flumen - An accessory cloud commonly called the beaver's tail
  • Cauda - Another type of tail cloud
  • Murus - Commonly known as a wall cloud

The WMO also added new specialty clouds. These are unique cloud formations produced from localized influences.

  • Cataractagenitus - A type of of cloud formed from the spray of a waterfall
  • Flammagenitus - A type of cloud forming as a result of forest fires
  • Homogenitus - A contrail lasting more than 10 minutes
  • Silvagenitus - A cloud that develops or grows due to localized factors such as evapotranspiration

While it might seem complicated to be adding more strange sounding names to the atlas when many of these clouds already have common names, it's an important part of the classification system. The Latin names help tell us characteristics of clouds like where and how they're developed. For instance, the prefix "cirro" is attached to high clouds, while the prefix "nimbo" is attached to storm clouds. The atlas is like a guide to clouds and the entire atlas is now available on the WMO's website!