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Clouds of the World

Barry Saltzman

Vol. 61, No. 3 (May–June 1973)

CLOUDS OF THE WORLD: A Complete Color Encyclopedia. Richard Scorer. 176 pp. Stackpole, 1972. $29.95.

Perhaps the most conspicuous features of the earth’s planetary portrait, as revealed by modern space photography, are the clouds. Certainly, in viewing them from below, man has always been impressed by their variety, beauty, and portents for weather fair and foul.

In this beautifully produced collection, the author, a leading investigator of the physics of cloud formation, has brought together an outstanding set of cloud pictures organized in a unique way based on the physical processes which give rise to the different types. Some aspects of this organization may well be adopted in a new cloud classification scheme, more physically meaningful than the one that has been in use with relatively little modification since the early 1800s. Most important is the introduction of the classifications of wave clouds resulting from flow over topographic features and billow clouds resulting from shearing instability, both of which are distinct from the types of clouds formed as a consequence of thermal convective processes.

The physical mechanisms involved in the various cloud formations are generally described in a clear, qualitative manner, aided by the frequent use of schematic diagrams showing the associated flow patterns. The amateur observer of clouds will appreciate many of the explanations, but in many cases also, the explanations depend on a background knowledge of fundamental dynamic meteorology (e.g., warm front wavelike clouds, Plate 5.8.1; and dust devils, Plate 14.1.1). Unfortunately, a few of the explanations dealing with dynamically complex phenomena may seem obscure or oversimplified even to the more sophisticated reader (e.g., jet-stream clouds, Plate 6.2.1).

In addition to cloud forms, this atlas also deals with such phenomena as contrails, stack plumes, and optical effects that owe their origin to the water and ice content of the atmosphere. It is a minor disappointment that the collection includes relatively few of the many exciting and revealing photographs from space obtained in recent years.

This volume is a must for all libraries and will be considered well worth the price by many individuals, including both amateur cloud watchers and professional research workers in cloud physics.—Barry Saltzman, Geology and Geophysics, Yale University

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