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The Cloudspotter's Guide Hardcover – May, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With tongue firmly in cheek and more than a little irony, Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, clears up any confusion readers may have about what separates a stratus from a cirrus from a cumulonimbus. He starts at the bottom-that is, at sea level-and discusses the types of clouds that form at each level in the atmosphere. The result is an amusing and remarkably informative jaunt through the heavenly vapors that draws on classical poetry, physics, geekery and pop culture. Despite this improbable mélange, Pretor-Pinney succeeds in fleshing out subtleties and making difficult concepts like convection, advection, condensation and atmospheric optics comprehensible to almost any reader. The author has included dozens of illustrations, cloud photos (including one that looks like two cats dancing and another that resembles Thor hurling a lightning bolt) and diagrams showing the anatomy and lifecycles of clouds. Rounding out the volume are a chapter on the human effects on clouds and a narrative about the author's pursuit of the "Morning Glory," which he calls "the most spectacular cloud in the world." By mixing self-deprecating humor and hard science, Pretor-Pinney makes learning about clouds fun.
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About the Author

Gavin Pretor-Pinney is the co-founder of The Idler magazine in England. A former science nerd and a graduate of Oxford University, he has been obsessed with clouds since childhood. His writing has appeared in The Telegraph, The Evening Standard, and other publications in England, including The Idler Book of Crap Towns. Currently living in London, Gavin is the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Perigee Trade; First Edition edition (May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399532560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399532566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
We get a lot of clouds in Michigan. You know, the Great Lakes and all. Sometimes, the blue sky people come here and find our skies depressing. But I like the clouds in all their varieties. In fact, when I am forced into a morning drive to the east with the Sun directly in my eyes, I am grateful when it disappears behind a cloud. Over the years I have seen some wonderful things. I remember as a child seeing a rainbow in a circle around the Sun and being amazed by it and looking up why it was there. I didn't understand all the technical terms, but remember that it talked about ice crystals refracting the light. Even so, I only learned about the clouds in the most rudimentary way.

Storm clouds are always amazing to see. I have even seen a few tornadoes and some amazing skies when I lived in Queensland, Australia for two years. There was a cyclone when I was there and that was literally a breath taking experience. The stinging rain comes sideways and it is hard to breath facing into the wind. I could even lean all my weight back into the wind and with my arms outstretched, it easily held me up. One of the wonderful aspects of this book is the way the author shares his love of the beauties in the lest dramatic types in a way that enthuses us to go and look for them on our own.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney is the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society and if you love pictures of clouds I can't recommend his website strongly enough. Really, they are amazing in their variety, drama, and beauty. This book has thirteen chapters. The first ten take us through the ten main cloud types from the low cumulous up to the cirrostratus. Before the first chapter there is a handy chart of these clouds and their common altitudes that can guide you to the relevant chapter in the book.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Blue skies, smiling at me," goes the Irving Berlin song, "Nothing but blue skies do I see." Berlin thought that was a good thing, but Gavin Pretor-Pinney would not. For him, clouds are there to be enjoyed, and they make that blue more beautiful by its being in the background. He does not feel there is anything depressing about having "a cloud on the horizon" and he sees no reason that we should link clouds with catastrophe, as in "clouds of doom", or with ill-will as in "clouds of suspicion". He feels clouds are underappreciated, and so a couple of years ago, he founded the Cloud Appreciation Society, complete with badges. As he says, "Of course, an organization only exists when it has a website," and indeed the CAS has one, full of photographs and poems by members, a picture of the Cloud of the Month, and chat rooms, with this stated purpose: "If you've got something to tell us, we'd love to hear it. But only if it is about clouds. Otherwise we're not interested." Pretor-Pinney would like us all to be cloudspotters, and has produced _The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds_ (Perigee), a witty and informative volume for those who want to take an educated view of his favorite subject. He emphatically agrees with John Constable, who could paint clouds like no one else: "We see nothing truly until we understand it." The book cannot fail in its mission of increasing both understanding and seeing.

We start understanding things when we can categorize them, and over the years, observers learned there were differences in cloud types and they attached names to them. The first person to take on this task did not do so until the nineteenth century.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Cloud Spotter on July 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Cloud Spotters Society's book is fantastic for those wanting to learn everything about those beautiful clouds we see all over the planet when we look up for them.

That said this book was lacking just one thing I was hoping there would be more of. I was hoping for more beautiful big color pictures of clouds. There were only a few pages that actually had color pictures of clouds and they were very small. But from reading the credits closely in this book on one of the more amazing small pictures, I did find out about another book, that is the most beautiful book I have ever seen! The book is RECOGNIZE from the photographer from Glen E. Friedman, it is a must have for any cloud spotter and cloud lover. RECOGNIZE gives me exactly what The Cloud Spotters Guide did not, phenomenal huge beautiful pictures of clouds, and nothing else, (other than a short politically charged introduction and afterward about the photographers career). RECOGNIZE is about the beautiful clouds, printed on 16" wide x almost 12" tall pages. These "skyscapes" which are artistic masterpieces in their own-right, are breathtaking and the perfect companion to The Cloud Spotter Guide if you were looking for great photographs of clouds.

If it's only pictures you were looking for then RECOGNIZE is clearly the book for you.

I recommend both of these fantastic books for the true cloud lovers and members of the Cloud Appreciation Society.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mr P R Morgan on October 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
Gavin Pretor-Pinner deserves praise for taking something so obvious as clouds, and writing a whole book. We tend to take the fluffy white (or bleak grey ......) objects for granted, and many know a little about what they are composed of, and where they come from. Mr P-P is obviously something of an expert in his field, and a real enthusiast, and has caused my thoughts to be "amongst the clouds", and in that the book has achieved some success. However, can I still name the 10 cloud types, and identify them? That is a different matter.

After a general introduction, there are chapters on each of the 10 (main) cloud types. In previous eras, clouds were seen to portend the weather. In the days of the 24-hour availability of detailed meteorological forecasts, that is now hard to believe. Knowledge of cloud formations is becoming something that we do not need to know. There are detailed explanations of weather fronts, (cold front, warm front and what used to be known as occluded fronts). However, there are no weather maps as a pictorial guide, with isobars. That would have been helpful.

Generally, I liked the book more as I progressed, but the subject matter is not `a story'. Gavin writes better when the detail is linked to little anecdotes, and he has a wry sense of humour, more to make the reader weakly smile that laugh. There are informative matters of detail, so that any reader will come away with items they never knew. The style brings life to the sometimes dry subject matter of condensed water vapour, which at times left me reeling with formation details and Latin names of the sub-species of clouds.

I found that some detail of the basic cloud types merged into each other, much as a blanket of Cirrostratus.
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