Back in the grade school, were taught about clouds, what made them and what they look like. They came in all kinds. Some were bright and fluffy, while some were thin and some dark. However, changes in the environment have introduced new formations over the years. Scientists have been trying to assign official names to the new formations to no avail. In fact, the record for official designations has not been updated since the 50. That’s until recently.

What is the Undulatus Asperatus?

It might look like something is stirring in the sky or that an alien of some sort is sucking up the clouds. Whatever you think about it, this apparently new cloud really does look terrifying. The Verge spoke with Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of The Cloud Appreciation society, about his mission to get recognition for a new category of cloud called the undulatus asperatus. This has been observed by many for years, but they did not know what to call it.

Just recently, on World Meteorological Day, the World Meteorological Organization finally recognized this new class and placed it in the updated International Cloud Atlas. However, the name has been changed a little bit to “asperitas.” This makes it the first addition to the atlas in half a century.

What Are These Like?

Ever thought about what clouds would look like on judgment day? These new clouds might stir your imagination.

The name undulatus asperatus means “turbulent inundation,” according to Pretor-Pinney. This is to describe a menacing, roiling cloud that’s unlike any other we had seen before. Well, we may have seen something like it in the movies, especially those that are centered on end-of-the-world themes. But this cloud in truth is far from being menacing. This class is distinct from the standard undulatus, but appears more confused. It looks like you are underneath the water while looking up at the surface, while the sea is disturbed and chaotic.

Pretor-Pinney adds that these are “localized waves in the cloud base, either smooth or dappled with smaller features.” Sometimes the formation ends with sharp points as if viewing a rough sea surface from below. It also features changing levels of illumination and thickness, thus resulting in hyper dramatic visuals.

How Does This Happen?

Pretor-Pinney worked closely with Graeme Anderson, a graduate student from the University of Reading, to support the need for a new classification. After pitching their hard work, meteorologists finally agreed that this class is distinct. In fact, their campaign to have this cloud officially logged took about a decade and lots of crowdfunding activities. Finally, because World Meteorological Day happened recently, it was given the green light.

Undulatus asperatus occur when the air becomes so unstable that it creates a widespread cloud cover. Wind shear and turbulence are what make the wavy and water-like visual effect. Asperitas clouds tend to be low-lying, caused by weather fronts that produce undulating waves in the atmosphere.

Why This Matters

The addition of this class is the first update to the International Cloud Atlas in 60 years. The earliest version of the International Cloud Atlas was published in 1896. Back then, it classified clouds into 10 genus, 26 species and 31 varieties. Species range from parecipitao (“to fall down”) to castellanus (“a castled fortified town”). They are classified mostly according to structure, shape and transparency. There have been updates and new additions through the years, but no changes had been made to the official atlas since cirrus intortus was added in 1951.

Undulatus asepratus clouds were discovered some nine years ago, but it was only recently that it was officially recognized in the International Cloud Atlas. It is now listed alongside 12 other new types of cloud and cloud formations. The others include cauda (tail cloud), murus (wall cloud) and fluctus (Kelvin-Helmholz wave). However, it is the asperatas that stand out and made the most impact. Just look at them!

So, the next time you see waves of dark clouds in the sky, do not be alarmed and think Armageddon is coming. Those scary looking waves in the sky now have an official name – are nothing to be scared about.

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