How To

    How to read the clouds and know a storm is coming

    It can be tricky to predict the weather, and even high-tech instruments can fail in spotting impeding snow or rain. Nonetheless, there are some signals provided by nature that can warn you of certain weather events. There are some basic clues anyone can spot that signals inclement weather is coming, and get to safety before the big storm hits. Below are some cloud conditions that you can look out for.

    Towering clouds

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    When we think of clouds, we most often think of cumulus clouds, which resemble cotton balls and normally signal fair weather. Watch out for clouds that billow upward and seem to develop vertically, as it can mean a storm is about to hit. Even if there are good weather conditions, a towering cumulus cloud is able to turn into a powerful thunderstorm in less than an hour.

    Shelf clouds

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    Lots of violent thunderstorms start at the foot of the Rockies and Alps and get more intense as they travel. Shelf or arcus clouds are shaped like wedges and attach themselves to parent clouds, developing into a thunderstorm.

    Color of the clouds

    A very common sign of impending severe weather is green clouds. When clouds are green and very deep, a thunderstorm is not far away. Another color to be on the lookout for is a black and blue underside in lowered clouds.

    Location of the clouds and sun rays

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    A scene where shaft of sunlight trickle through gaps in the clouds can look peaceful, but look out for smaller and unusually dark cumulus clouds in the foreground. This means there is a high-altitude and large “congestus” cloud in the background which is a signal a storm is brewing.

    Movement of the clouds

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    A characteristic of an impending severe thunderstorm is a rotating wall cloud with a lower cloud base. Rotating, twisting and quick-moving clouds are normally one of the most obvious signals that a severe storm is coming.

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