Cloud

Tobacco. Under a cloud; in adversity.
to be under a , to be in difficulties, disgrace or disrepute; in fact, to be in shady circumstances.
 Clouds

Previous to much rain falling, the clouds grow bigger, and increase very fast, especially before thunder. When the clouds are formed like fleeces, but dense in the middle and bright towards the edges, with the sky bright, they are signs of a frost, with hail, snow, or rain. If clouds form high in air, in thin white trains like locks of wool, they portend wind, and probably rain. When a general cloudiness covers the sky, and small black fragments of clouds fly underneath, they are a sure sign of rain, and probably will be lasting. Two currents of clouds always portend rain, and, in summer, thunder. 


Fertilisation of Clouds

As the navigator cruises in the Pacific Ocean among the islands of the trade-wind region, he sees gorgeous piles of cumuli, heaped up in fleecy masses, not only capping the island hills, but often overhanging the lowest islet of the tropics, and even standing above coral patches and hidden reefs; “a cloud by day.” to serve as a beacon to the lonely mariner out there at sea, and to warn him of shoals and dangers which no lead nor seaman's eye has ever seen or sounded. These clouds, under favourable circumstances, may be seen gathering above the low coral island, preparing it for vegetation and fruitfulness in a very striking manner. As they are condensed into showers, one fancies that they are a sponge of the most exquisite and delicately elaborated material, and that he can see, as they “drop down their fatness,” the invisible but bountiful hand aloft that is pressing and squeezing it out.—Maury.

The Equatorial Cloud-Ring

In crossing the Equatorial Doldrums, the voyager passes a ring of clouds that encircles the earth, and is stretched around our planet to regulate the quantity of precipitation in the rain-belt beneath it; to preserve the due quantum of heat on the face of the earth; to adjust the winds; and send out for distribution to the four corners vapours in proper quantities, to make up to each river-basin, climate, and season, its quota of sunshine, cloud, and moisture. Like the balance-wheel of a well-constructed chronometer, this cloud-ring affords the grand atmospherical machine the most exquisitely arranged self-compensation. Nature herself has hung a thermometer under this cloud-belt that is more perfect than any that man can construct, and its indications are not to be mistaken.—Maury.

“the Equatorial Doldrums”

is another of these calm places. Besides being a region of calms and baffling winds, it is a region noted for its rains and clouds, which make it one of the most oppressive and disagreeable places at sea. The emigrant ships from Europe for Australia have to cross it. They are often baffled in it for two or three weeks; then the children and the passengers who are of delicate health suffer most. It is a frightful graveyard on the wayside to that golden land.

FIG. 6.

Clouds are formed by the partial condensation of vapour, and are borne along by the wind, instead of falling as rain; the reason of their not falling is this, when the air below the clouds is saturated with moisture it will absorb no more and the rain falls, but when it is warm and dry, and passed in a constantly renewed current, then the vapour is absorbed before it reaches the earth, and is carried off by the wind. Clouds, therefore, although they often appear stationary, are constantly altering their form and size, portions being absorbed while others are being formed. Clouds are of various forms and sizes, and indeed of almost every variety, but certain kinds which are frequently seen, have received different names. The "cirrhus" comprises all the feathery white clouds which float high up in the air in fine weather; the "cumulus" consists of the large mountain-like clouds which are generally seen in summer; the "stratus," thosehorizontal layers of clouds low down in the horizon, so often seen at sunset; and the "nimbus" is the rain-cloud, of a dark grey or leaden hue, with sharp well-marked edges (fig. 6).

FIG. 7.

Clouds are amongst the most beautiful as well as useful things in nature, and it is one of the greatest proofs of the active benevolence of God, that all those things which serve man the most, are the most beautiful to contemplate. Without clouds there would be no rain, and without this no vegetation. In many parts of the tropical regions there is little or no rain, and in such parts desert places abound. Clouds are often of different states of electricity, and when they come near enough to each other, a transfer of the fluid takes place, accompanied with a flash of lightning (fig. 7) and a report, although this is not always heard at the same time that the lightning is seen, as sound does not travel nearly so fast as light; there is no danger from this kind of lightning. But it sometimes happens that a cloud in an opposite state of electricity to the surface of the earth is near enough to produce a flash of lightning between them, in this case it is extremely dangerous to be near; but when the thunder is not heard till some time after the flash is seen, there can be no danger, as it is then far away. Sound travels at about eleven hundred feet per second, therefore (in round numbers) it may be known that the lightning is one mile distant for every five seconds that elapse between the flash and the thunder. The notion which prevails that iron and steel attract lightning is entirely erroneous, they do not even conduct it so well as copper and many other metals.

How Does the Rain-Making Vapour Get From the Southern Into the Northern Hemisphere?

This comes with such regularity, that our rivers never go dry, and our springs fail not, because of the exact compensation  of the grand machine of the atmosphere. It is exquisitely and wonderfully counterpoised. Late in the autumn of the north, throughout its winter, and in early spring, the sun is pouring his rays with the greatest intensity down upon the seas of the southern hemisphere; and this powerful engine, which we are contemplating, is pumping up the water there with the greatest activity; at the same time, the mean temperature of the entire southern hemisphere is about 10° higher than the northern. The heat which this heavy evaporation absorbs becomes latent, and with the moisture is carried through the upper regions of the atmosphere until it reaches our climates. Here the vapour is formed into clouds, condensed and precipitated; the heat which held their water in the state of vapour is set free, and becomes sensible heat; and it is that which contributes so much to temper our winter climate. It clouds up in winter, turns warm, and we say we are going to have falling weather: that is because the process of condensation has already commenced, though no rain or snow may have fallen. Thus we feel this southern heat, that has been collected by the rays of the sun by the sea, been bottled away by the winds in the clouds of a southern summer, and set free in the process of condensation in our northern winter.

Thus the South Seas should supply mainly the water for the engine just described, while the northern hemisphere condenses it; we should, therefore, have more rain in the northern hemisphere. The rivers tell us that we have, at least on the land; for the great water-courses of the globe, and half the fresh water in the world, are found on the north side of the equator. This fact is strongly corroborative of this hypothesis. To evaporate water enough annually from the ocean to cover the earth, on the average, five feet deep with rain; to transport it from one zone to another; and to precipitate it in the right places at suitable times and in the proportions due,—is one of the offices of the grand atmospherical machine. This water is evaporated principally from the torrid zone. Supposing it all to come thence, we shall have encircling the earth a belt of ocean 3000 miles in breadth, from which this atmosphere evaporates a layer of water annually sixteen feet in depth. And to hoist up as high as the clouds, and lower down again, all the water, in a lake sixteen feet deep and 3000 miles broad and 24,000 long, is the yearly business of this invisible machinery. What a powerful engine is the atmosphere! and how nicely adjusted must be all the cogs and wheels and springs and compensations  of this exquisite piece of machinery, that it never wears out nor breaks down, nor fails to do its work at the right time and in the right way!—Maury.

Clouds—Their Form and Classification

Clouds are continually varying in their form and appearance, but may be classed under the four principal heads of the cirrus, the cumulus, the stratus, and the nimbus.

PICTORIAL CHART OF THE CLOUDS, SHOWING THEIR FORMS AND POSITION

Clouds

1. Cirrus  (sir ´rus ).—Small curl-like clouds, usually high in the heavens. 2. Cirro-stratus  (sir-ro-strā´tus ).—Intermediate between the cirrus and stratus. 3. Cirro-cumulus  (sir-ro-kū´mu-lŭs ).—Resembling the scales of mackerel. 4. Alto-cumulus (al ´tō-kū´mu-lus ).—High cumulus clouds. 5. Alto-stratus  (ăltō-strā´tūs ).—High stratus clouds. 6. Strato-cumulus  (strā´to-kū´mu-lŭs ).—Forms of cumulus and stratus combined. 7. Nimbus  (nim ´būs ).—A rain cloud. 8. Cumulus  (´mū-lus ).—A conical heap of clouds. 9. Cumulo-stratus  (´mu-lo-stra ´tŭs ).—Intermediate between the cumulus and the stratus. 10. Stratus (strā´tŭs ).—Arranged in a horizontal band or layer. 11. Fracto-stratus  (frăk ´tō-strā´tŭs ).—Broken forms of stratus. 12. Fracto-cumulus  (frăk ´to-kū´mu-lus ).—Broken forms of cumulus.

The cirrus is a light, fleecy cloud resembling a lock of hair or a feather.

The cumulus or summer cloud is generally massive and of a round form; sometimes of small size, and sometimes covering nearly the whole sky, and occasionally appearing in the horizon like mountains capped with snow.

The stratus is a horizontal, misty cloud sometimes observed on fine summer evenings comparatively near the ground, and often crossing the middle regions of mountainous or hilly districts.

The nimbus or rain cloud has a uniform gray tint; it is fringed at the edges when these are displayed, but usually covers the whole sky. The region of clouds is a zone extending in the atmosphere from about one to four miles above the Earth. The most elevated clouds, which are light and fleecy, are those comprehended under the name of cirrus, and the lowest are those which are called stratus.

The cirro-cumulus, cirro-stratus, and cumulo-stratus are only modifications and combinations of the above-named principal classes.

Cloud Castles

The heavens are the most constant thing we know, the skies the most inconstant. Even the Olympian expanse, when blue and cloudless, is an aspect of terrestrial atmosphere in a holiday mood, a sort of gay parasol which the Earth holds up when she walks in the sun, and takes down again when she walks in the shadow; while clouds are veils wrapped more closely about her, and even more friendly to her frailty. Nor are these feminine trappings less lovely for being easily blown about, and always fresh and in the latest fashion. It is a prejudice to suppose that instability must be sad or must be trivial. A new cloud castle is probably well worth an old one; any one of them may equal in beauty the monotonous gold and black vault which it conceals from us, and all of them together certainly surpass that tragic decoration in spiritual suggestion. Something in us no doubt regrets that these airy visions vanish so quickly and are irrecoverable; but this is a sort of fleshly sentimentality of ours and not reasonable. In nature, what disappears never narrows the range of what is yet to be. If we were immortally young, like the atmosphere, the lapse of things would not grieve us, nor would inconstancy be a vice in ourselves. Nobody's future would be blighted by his past; and this perhaps explains the morals of the gods. Change to us is an omen of death, and only in the timeless can we feel secure; but if we were safe in our plastic existence, like nature and the gods of nature, fidelity to a single love might seem foolish in us; being and possessing any one thing would not then be incompatible with sooner or later being and possessing everything else. Nature and substance are like the absolute actor with an equal affinity for every part, and changing sex, age, and station with perfect good grace.

A great principle of charity in morals is not to blame the fishes for their bad taste in liking to live under water. Yet many philosophers seem to have sinned against this reasonable law, since they have blamed life and nature for liking to change, which is as much as to say for liking to live. Certainly life and nature, when they produce thought, turn from themselves towards the eternal, but it is by a glance, itself momentary, that they turn to it; for if they were themselves converted into something changeless, they could neither live, think, nor turn. In the realm of existence it is not sinful to be fugitive nor in bad taste to be new. Accordingly cloud castles have nothing to blush for; if they have a weak hold on existence, so has everything good. We are warned that the day of judgement will be full of surprises: perhaps one of them may be that in heaven things are even more unstable than on earth, and that the mansions reserved for us there are not only many but insecure. Cloud castles are hints to us that eternity has nothing to do with duration, nor beauty with substantial existence, and that even in heaven our bliss would have to be founded on a smiling renunciation. Did Mohammed, I wonder, misunderstand the archangel Gabriel in gathering that celestial beauties (unlike the lights and voices of Dante's paradise) could be embraced as well as admired? And in promising that our heavenly brides would daily recover their virginity, did he simply clothe in a congenial metaphor the fact that they would be different brides every day, and that if we wished to dwell in a true paradise, and not in a quarrelsome and sordid harem, we must never dream of seeing any of them a second time?

Fidelity is a virtue akin to habit and rooted in the inertia of animal life, which would run amok without trusty allies and familiar signals. We have an inveterate love of The Same, because our mortal condition obliges us to reconsider facts and to accumulate possessions; by instinct both the heart and the intellect hug everything they touch, and to let anything go is a sort of death to them. This spirit of pathetic fidelity in us would certainly reproach those ethereal visions for being ephemeral, and Cupid for having wings and no heart; but might not the visiting angels in turn reproach us for clownishness in wishing to detain them? They are not made of flesh and blood; they are not condemned to bear children. Their smile, their voice, and the joy they bring us are the only life they have. They are fertile only like the clouds, in that by dissolving they give place to some other form, no less lovely and elusive than themselves; and perhaps if we took a long view we should not feel that our own passage through existence had a very different quality. We last as a strain of music lasts, and we go where it goes. Is it not enough that matter should illustrate each ideal possibility only once and for a moment, and that Caesar or Shakespeare should figure once in this world? To repeat them would not intensify their reality, while it would impoverish and make ridiculous the pageant of time, like a stage army running round behind the scenes in order to reappear. To come to an end is a virtue when one has had one's day, seeing that in the womb of the infinite there are always other essences no less deserving of existence.

Even cloud castles, however, have a double lien on permanence. A flash of lightning is soon over, yet so long as the earth is wrapped in its present atmosphere, flashes will recur from time to time so very like this one that the mind will make the same comment upon them, and its pronouncements on its past experience will remain applicable to its experience to come. Fleeting things in this way, when they are repeated, survive and are united in the wisdom which they teach us in common. At the same time they inwardly contain something positively eternal, since the essences they manifest are immutable in character, and from their platonic heaven laugh at this inconstant world, into which they peep for a moment, when a chance collocation of atoms suggests one or another of them to our minds. To these essences mind is constitutionally addressed, and into them it likes to sink in its self-forgetfulness. It is only our poor mother Psyche, being justly afraid of growing old, who must grudge the exchange of one vision for another. Material life is sluggish and conservative; it would gladly drag the whole weary length of its past behind it, like a worm afraid of being cut in two in its crawling. It is haunted by a ghostly memory, a wonderful but not successful expedient for calling the dead to life, in order, somewhat inconsistently, to mourn over them and be comforted. Why not kiss our successive pleasures good-bye, simply and without marking our preferences, as we do our children when they file to bed? A free mind does not measure the worth of anything by the worth of anything else. It is itself at least as plastic as nature and has nothing to fear from revolutions. To live in the moment would indeed be brutish and dangerous if we narrowed to a moment the time embraced in our field of view, since with the wider scope of thought come serenity and dominion; but to live in the moment is the only possible life if we consider the spiritual activity itself. The most protracted life, in the actual living, can be nothing but a chain of moments, each the seat of its irrecoverable vision, each a dramatic perspective of the world, seen in the light of a particular passion at a particular juncture. But at each moment the wholeness of mind is spiritual and aesthetic, the wholeness of a meaning or a picture, and no knife can divide it. Its immortality, too, is timeless, like that of the truths and forms in which it is absorbed. Therefore apprehension can afford to hasten all the more trippingly in its career, touching the facts here and there for a moment, and building its cloud castles out of light and air, movement and irony, to let them lapse again without a pang. Contemplation, when it frees itself from animal anxiety about existence, ceases to question and castigate its visions, as if they were mere signals of alarm or hints of hidden treasures; and then it cannot help seeing what treasures these visions hold within themselves, each framing some luminous and divine essence, as a telescope frames a star; and something of their inalienable distinction and firmness seems to linger in our minds, though in the exigencies of our hurried life we must turn away from each of them and forget them.