While some of our friends like to joke that it is always raining up on t’hill, we do get some pretty fascinating weather at Woodlands View.  Just because the sky is often cloudy doesn’t mean that there isn’t something interesting to see. Becoming a ‘cloud spotter’ is actually quite fun and you can do it from almost anywhere. For some of the phenomena it is possible to see, it is not always obvious that clouds are making it possible.


Here are some examples of the cloud based weather phenomena that you can spot up on the moor. Some are quite common, others not so much.




Cumulonimbus - We get lots of these huge purplish-grey storm clouds and often stop work to watch the bad weather roll in. If we are lucky, we get to watch and photograph lightning.


Mammatus - These look like pouches or rounded pockets hanging from clouds.  They are quite common before or after rainstorms, although we’ve only seen them cover the whole sky like this once.  When you know what to look out for though, you can see smaller patches of them quite easily.


Mist and fog are formed by low cloud. Fog is very low stratus cloud made from tiny water droplets that are light enough to remain suspended in the air. The difference between mist and fog is that you can see much further through mist (fog, visibility less than 1km, relative humidity > 95%). Sometime the fog rolls in that quick, you almost have to run to escape it.


Crepuscular rays - are often seen just before a heavy rainstorm or thunderstorm rolls across the moor. They are quite pretty and we know that it is time to put the wheelbarrow away and the kettle on because it will soon be raining hard.


Lenticular clouds - While not the most impressive one we have seen it was the only time where we had a camera handy. Again these are quite common, but we just aren't looking. People have often seen these and reported seeing a U.F.O.


Funnel cloud - Nettie was so excited when she saw this as she had never seen one before.  We watched it grow and extend out of the cloud becoming darker and tighter. It lasted for several minutes before dispersing.  A funnel cloud becomes a tornado if it touches the ground.


Solar halos are a complete ring of light around the Sun that are formed by sunlight refracting through ice crystals in cirrostratus cloud. The most common ones are 22 degrees from the Sun (an outstretched hand at arms length- see photo). They are very beautiful but do be careful while observing or photographing them because of the dangers of looking directly at the Sun.


Sun dogs (parhelion) look like little snippets of rainbow near the Sun. They are created when sunlight is refracted through ice crystals high in the atmosphere like in a solar halo.  We usually spot them when there are lots of wispy cirrus cloud in the sky. They are really common and easy to see although they do not always show the full spectrum of colours.


Blue sky - Yes, we do get blue sky sometimes.  The wispy clouds are cirrus and possibly altocumulus. The moon is also there somewhere.


If you want to take more of an interest in clouds, a good place to start is The Cloud Appreciation Society. Founded by Gavin Pretor-Pinney in 2005, the society aims to encourage people to enjoy and appreciate clouds. The Cloudspotter's Guide, published in 2006 by Pretor-Pinney gives a light hearted look at the main types of cloud whilst explaining some of the science behind them and how they form.