The turbulent Asperatus clouds first caught the attention of Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society in 2006. Gaven then began a decade-long campaign to have the WMO formally recognize the new cloud. Varying levels of illumination and thickness of these clouds lead to some very dramatic visual effects.
Although these clouds appear dark and storm-like, they almost always dissipate without a storm forming. The ominous-looking clouds have been particularly common in the Plains states of the United States, often during the morning or midday hours following convective thunderstorm activity.
Here in southwest Ohio, these clouds have often been spotted just before or just after thunderstorms have moved through.
Asperatus cloud sightings are an awesome reminder that our atmosphere is an ocean of gas, complete with cloud waves crashing high above us. These clouds occur when atmospheric instability associated with rising air is widespread enough to create almost total cloud cover. Combine this with turbulence and wind shear, and this will create wavy, rough ocean-like visual effects!
Just a heads up - if you do happen to notice these clouds overhead and you are planning to fly somewhere on a trip, you can expect a bit of a bumpy flight!
Eric Elwell is chief meteorologist for WHIO-TV NewsCenter 7.