Friday, June 29, 2012

Clouds, Contest, and Holidays...Oh My!

Jennifer here. I hope you've enjoyed our June journey through the clouds. The research we do on Writing Prompts, Thoughts and Ideas, Oh My! is fun and entertaining for us. We want you to reap the benefits from our investigations. Join us in July as we explore the holidays by the season. Now for our monthly contest...

When you hear the word contest, what do you think? Money, new car, fame, fortune? Sorry, this isn't that kind of contest. However, if you could spend a $10 Amazon gift card and bask in a smidgen of fame among your fellow writers, this contest is for you.

Begin your (under 500 words) short story with this month's cloud prompt below...

 "A slight breeze tugged on the linen as Nonnie secured it to the clothes line. She glanced toward the western sky. A thin sheet of delicate, white lace, much like her grandmother's curtains, spread from the north to the south. However, that beautiful picture was not what caused her breath to hitch in her lungs . . .

 Winner will be announced on next Tuesday's blog. That means you'll need to have your award-winning story to us by midnight Sunday (central time). Amaze and wow us and win, win, win. We look forward to seeing your story. Tell all your friends.

Someone is going to win an Amazon gift card. It might as well be you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Have you ever had one of those weeks that you just don't know what day it is? Well, that is this week for me. Usually I have something to remind me. Like church on Sunday, or my daughter's dance on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, or rain on Wednesday.

There has been little to nothing rain wise and the temperatures have been hot, hot, hot. Kind of odd for Kansas in June. Oh, it does get hot in June, but not usually this hot this fast.

But I'm not here to talk about the temperatures, not really. I'm here to talk about clouds. As I've said there are so many different types. It'd take at least another month to cover them all. So, I've reserved today (a day late) for my favorite types of clouds. Cumulonimbus. There are several sub-species of these types of clouds and because they all form in unstable air they almost always produce some type of storm, whether it's a little rain shower or a massive thunderstorm that produces tornadoes.

 These three pictures were taken the day of the Joplin tornado from just south of Topeka. These pictures were taken looking southeast. Although the tops are high (cumulus congestus) they don't look to bad.
 Here the rest of the cloud base is beginning to explode and meet that single tower. This is a small example of cumulonimbus calvas. Of course, I'm betting the people closer to the storm would think it's not so small.
 This is the same set of clouds, but they've moved further away.
 This is a different day and I'm looking toward the west as the sun is setting. My point of showing you this picture is for you to get a perspective of what these types of clouds look like coming and going.
 Looks ominous, doesn't it? Just some funky looking clouds with wind and rain. Nothing more.
 I believe this is a very turbulent Mammatus cloud. These types of clouds can be associated with tornadic cells. And if I recall correctly this one did have tornado warning on it.
 This is a funnel cloud. My husband took this picture just a block from our home.

And this is the same storm, the same funnel cloud. My brother took this picture from his house several miles northeast from ours.

These clouds aren't considered tornadoes until they actually touch the ground.

Here is an excerpt from my Western Romance Love at Twenty Paces--

Shielding her eyes, she scanned the western sky. In typical Kansas fashion, the sun shone high and hot, while bright, white clouds bubbled like suds in a washtub. A storm was brewing. If it got too hot, the clouds too high, a monster wind was sure to funnel down from the sky and rip to shreds everything in its path.

This week's writing prompt- choose one of the pictures above and write a small scene.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Cirrus Aviaticus - Contrails

Author, Joe Thomissen
And now, an “artificial” cloud: Contrails
We used to call them jet trails. The thin lines across the brilliant, blue sky, evidence of the flight of an airliner. Sometimes you’ll see several, crisscrossing one another. I never really thought of these as being actual clouds. But they are.
How are contrails formed? Jet engines emit exhaust that contains water vapor. Above 26,000 feet where the temperature is usually below -40 °F, condensation occurs quickly. Ice crystals form and your vapor trail is created. 
Contrails can also be triggered by changes in air pressure, (wingtip vortices) in lower altitudes, when the jets are traveling at slower rates of speed. They trail behind the wingtips and wing flaps rather than the engines. 
Contrails have an opposite effect called Distrails, which looks like a tunnel through existing clouds. It is the path of the jet, as shown in the picture below.
I would like to note here that there is some concern about the longterm consequences of contrails and chemtrails. You can read more about this aspect at

Author, Brocken Inaglory

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Veil

There are so many types of cloud formations that we could talk about them for weeks on end and we haven't even hit my favorites. Hopefully we'll do that next week. I'm hope you're seeing the formation of clouds depends on what part of the atmosphere they're in. They also depend on several other factors too. Like the cirrostratus. The cirrostratus are high based clouds "when convectively stable moist air cools to saturation at a high altitude" ( Sometimes, websites say it best, especially when it comes to science.

The thing about cirrostratus clouds, and I'm sure you've noticed it yourself, is that they almost always take up the entire visual when they move in. Since I don't have a picture available, let me try to describe it to you. It's like a wave riding across the sky. Well, riding depends on how fast the cloud is moving. The reason it takes up so much space is usually because a frontal line is pushing it, so depending on how quickly that frontal line is moving depends on fast the cloud moves.

As the cloud gets closer, depending on the weight of precipitation, which depends on the temperatures and whether or not they're clashing with other fronts, the cloud formations can begin to look lower, heavier and darker. This frontal cloud can mean rain or snow. Here is a great link to a time lapse video

Here is another video.

The optical phenomena that you see is most likely from the cloud formations changing and dropping into the lower atmosphere. It seems to me that as the clouds thicken and more ice crystals form, the sun reflects off of them like a prism causing the beautiful spectacle.

The videos I shared are of a more dramatic nature of the cirrostatus and come along with other cloud formations. As I said above, much depends on the many other factors. However, there are times when the cirrostatus appears to be nothing more than a thin sheet of lace.

I love how describes the cirrostratus-- appearing as a whitish and usually somewhat fibrous veil.

Writing prompt:  A slight breeze tugged on the linen as Nonnie secured it to the clothes line. She glanced toward the western sky. A thin sheet of delicate, white lace, much like her grandmother's curtains, spread from the north to the south. However, that beautiful picture was not what caused her breath to hitch in her lungs . . .

Friday, June 15, 2012

“Mackerel” Clouds

In the past, my descriptions of clouds would be white, puffy, cottony, cotton candy—do you see a pattern here? What I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that there are all types of clouds and many are not so puffy.

Cirrocumulus floccus
Cirrocumulus are high altitude, cold weather clouds that contain snow or ice. They are actually tiny puff clouds, sometimes referred to as cloudlets. Often cirrocumulus clouds are called “mackerel” clouds because of their resemblance to the scales of a fish. Cirrocumulus clouds never cast self-shadows and are translucent to a certain degree. A cloud without a shadow? Interesting.
Cirrocumulus clouds tend to reflect the red and yellow colours during a sunset and sunrise, and thus they have been referred to as "one of the most beautiful clouds". This occurs because they reflect the unscattered rays of light from the early morning or evening sun, and those rays are yellow, orange, and red.

Today’s writing prompt:
 Alan reached for Sue’s hand as he pointed toward the setting sun. “See the cirrocumulus clouds?”
Sue’s smile turned to a frown. “Yes. But what’s that coming through…

For more on these clouds and others, check out the following links:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mare's Tails

My apologies for posting a tad late today. I've had a lot on my mind and let time pass me by.If you're a writer I'm sure you heard that you should never open a scene with weather. It's a rule I've been told over and over, especially with this particular scene from my Scottish historical. However, I believe this is one rule that can either be broken or adapted. Why? Because weather can serve to set the mood of the scene. It can be a foretelling of what is to come. On the other hand, it can be predictable.

Think about Little Red Riding Hood. You all know what happens, but let's say you didn't. Let's say Little Red's skipping along with basket in hand. Instead of a dark forest we have open skies. Are they blue with wispy clouds or dark and foreboding? If the clouds are light and fluffy you'd expect something good to happen, not a big bad wolf at the end of the trail. If they are dark and monstrous you wouldn't be surprised at the snarling wolf. However, because we all know the story, we pretty much know what to expect no matter what the clouds might look like.

I've often heard that cirrus clouds, also known as mare's tails, are a sign of a change in weather. Most likely it's a sign of rain to come. But you could use these wispy high altitude clouds as a change to come in your character's life.

Today's writing prompt:

If the mare's tails dancing across the blue sky were any indication . . .

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nacreous Clouds

Also called: Mother-of-Pearl Clouds, Wave Clouds, or Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSCs)
A southern girl like me has only seen these clouds in photographs. But the photos are breathtaking. They look like iridescent sheets, undulating with the winds and waves of the atmosphere. 
They hang out in the lower stratosphere, 9 - 16 miles high and can be seen in winter, just after sunset and just before dawn. These clouds consist of ice crystals that are uniform in shape and size. The unusual colors result when the sun’s rays hit the thin clouds at just the right angle. 
These are regarded as “dangerous beauties” by scientist who believe they are helping destroy the ozone layer. In August 2006, an unusual cloud formation was spotted over Australian Mawson Station in Antartica (see inset NASA photo). It was believed that this unusual sighting was caused by extreme weather conditions. 
In January 2008, nacreous clouds put on a gorgeous month-long display in Scandinavia (you can read about it in detail and see some amazing photos on this page).

Whatever your genre, these mysterious and beautiful cloud formations could add depth and color to your composition.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Night Light-Ice Cloud

Remember when days were much simpler and you could lay out on the grass without fear of chiggers and watch the clouds go by? Remember the white dragons and white, fluffy bunny rabbits floating across the sky? Remember when the only care in the world was seeing who could find the most unique shapes first?

I do. It's something I haven't done for a long time. Not since I was a kid. Well there was a few weeks ago when I thought I'd give it a try. See if it was as peaceful as I remembered. I laid on my back, all of twenty minutes, and waited. My knight in shining armor never road across the sky that day. In fact, I didn't even see a tiny puff of a cotton ball. Ever since I've been looking whenever I get a chance, but I still haven't found a recognizable object. Makes me wonder if my cloudination has flown the coop. I sure hope not since it's one of my favorite past-times.

 My husband is always telling me to get my head out of the clouds. And not so much for the normal reasons. I love looking them and studying their formations. Does that mean I know a whole lot about clouds? Not necessarily. I more of an inactive observationist, if you know what I mean.

However, I'm going to give it a try right along with Betty and Jennifer. During the month of June we're going to cover different types of clouds.

First, I want to review a basic concept. If you remember from your physical science there are several layers to Earth's atmosphere.

Exosphere-- 600 and up
Thermosphere--85-600 km
Mesosphere--50-85 km
Stratosphere--12-50 km
Troposphere--0-12 km

The height of the troposphere is a little over 6 miles or around 30,000 feet. The next time you look up and see an airliner flying across the sky take note of how high it looks and then realize that the airliner is flying within the troposphere. The troposphere is where most clouds form. Occasionally, clouds will form in the stratosphere and the mesosphere. 

The three bottom layers, the meso, strato, and tropo are known together as the homosphere.

A type of cloud that forms in the mesosphere is one we're all very familiar with. They're usually the clouds we admire most as God's beautiful artwork. Noctilucent. If you know your latin roots you may recognize this as night light. Noctilucent clouds are most common as the sun is rising or setting.

These illuminated beauties are also known as ice clouds. That's because the temperature is so cold (sometimes -150F) in the mesosphere  that the water vapor freezes. I imagine since the sun isn't directly above the frozen particles it doesn't thaw out as quickly leaving an otherworldly painting that could only be created by the hand of God.

The picture to the left shows several types of clouds but the high thin streaks are the closest example I could find in my photos.


Instead or giving you a writing prompt, I've decided to let my pictures speak for themselves. Chose one and make it worth a thousand words.

Speaking of prompts, I suppose you're all wondering who won the prompt contest. Each entry was unique and well done, but there is one that we were in complete agreement that stood out above the rest.

And the winner is . . . Jennifer Slattery! Jennifer please email me your email and I'll get your gift certificate to you.

Thank you to everyone for participating. It was a lot of fun and we loved seeing your creativity.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Soooo, since it's the last Friday of our blogging month we thought (okay, I thought) it'd be fun to see what y'all come up with. I chose one of my favorite prompts from the month. In under 500 words, using the prompt below, write a scene. Jennifer, Betty and I will choose our favorite scene. Winner will be announced on next Tuesday's blog. That means you'll need to have your prompt to us by midnight Sunday (central time).

John glanced from the burnt orange sunset to the blush of the Indian paintbrush in the meadow below before his gaze settled on…

Oh, I suppose you want to know what it is you'll receive . . . .  well, your prompt will be featured here.  And, are you ready for this?  The winner will also receive a $10 gift certificate to

Okay, so not a huge deal, but if you're like me that ten dollars will come in handy toward the purchase of a research or writing craft book.

Don't forget to post your prompt in the comments. Oh, and if you're shy, you can email them to us, too. Double oh, please keep your entries family friendly as we have young readers, too.

Happy Writing,