The Daily Telegraph
Every cloud art installation has a silver lining
REMEMBER that old adage about a great salesman being able to hawk tea to the Orient? Well, a Japanese artist has just managed to achieve the opposite: flogging mist to Londoners.
Artist Fujiko Nakaya has created a “fog sculpture” outside Tate Modern, using tiny high-pressured nozzles to create a wall of cloud.
But we British are already connoisseurs of the pea soup. The Latin classifications for clouds were first proposed in 1802 by pharmacist Luke Howard. In December of that year Mr Howard gave a talk entitled “On the Modifications of Clouds”, in which he established the basic principles of cirrus, cumulus and stratus clouds and their combinations.
In 1896, Britain produced the inaugural edition of the International Cloud Atlas. And today, the Cloud Appreciation Society, founded by Somerset nephologist (cloud spotter) Gavin Pretor-Pinney, has the world’s largest database of categorised cloud photographs online – 15,000 and rising.
This week, the Cloud Appreciation Society has successfully lobbied the World Meteorological Society to introduce a new official classification of cloud to the International Cloud Atlas: the asperitas – described as having a “chaotic and turbulent appearance”. A fitting cloud for these troubled times, you might say.
The atlas will also feature some new Latin terms for cloud formations that hitherto only had colloquial titles, such as the breaking-wave “Kelvin Helmholtz cloud” and the hole-punch shaped “fallstreak hole”.
Mr Pretor-Pinney is “delighted” with the outcome. And with good reason. His whole purpose is to raise a sense of wonder in the ordinary – the notion that excitement lies in the most mundane of settings, so long as you are prepared to stop and look – which is a fine philosophy as far as the British weather goes.