Another reason to look up

4 Apr
By CORNELIA DEAN, New York Times ,  March 28, 2011

cover of Cloud Collector's HandbookGavin Pretor-Pinney confronts his new book’s major problem right up front. “You might well think,” he writes, “that cloud collecting sounds like a ridiculous idea.”

True, he acknowledges, clouds are ephemeral, “magicked into being” by the atmosphere and constantly changing. And, of course, they cannot actually be gathered up and stored away. But as Mr. Pretor-Pinney sees it, you don’t have to possess something to collect it: “You just have to notice it and record it.”

Hence “The Cloud Collector’s Handbook,” published by Chronicle Books, a serious yet charming field guide to clouds. The book teaches readers how to identify clouds they have seen and gives them a place to record the sightings, just the way birders create life lists of the birds they have spotted. It even has a scoring system, in which cloudspotters receive 10 points for ordinary clouds like nimbostratus, the more or less featureless rain clouds people typically have in mind when they say clouds are depressing; 40 points for a cumulonimbus storm cloud, the anvil-shaped “king of clouds”; and more points for more exotic formations.

His goal, Mr. Pretor-Pinney said in an interview, is to help readers escape the tyranny of “blue sky thinking” and to understand and appreciate the beauty of a cloudy day. FULL STORY WITH SLIDESHOW


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