Friday, 2 October 2015

Cloud Appreciation Society Conference 2015

"clouds reveal the architecture of the atmosphere" - Gavin Pretory-Pinney


The first ever Cloud Appreciation Society conference was held last weekend at the Royal Geographical Society.
I travelled down on a day which started with cloudless skies, and met up with my colleague Claire and then made our way to the ‘home of Geography’.
Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the founder of the society had curated a range of speakers and other sessions to celebrate clouds. The stage was nicely set, with balloons and lovely images. The day started with the movie by Leander Ward that I shared a few days ago.
Gavin himself took us on a tour through the main cloud types, and talked about the work of the society. There was also the news that the app had been updated with a new gallery upload option and there was a talk with one of the moderators which introduced us to other cloud types.

Image of new app


There was a break for coffee and in that time, we managed to pop out to the V&A, as previously blogged.
After the break, there was a lovely short talk by Peter Moore, who told us about James Glaisher's record breaking 19th century balloon ascent which nearly ended in tragedy.
This was followed by Professor John Thornes, who talked about the art of the sky. He described the sky in landscape paintings and the change in the way that it was depicted through art history, and also how the position of the sun in the sky could be used to date paintings and also work out where the artist may have been standing when painting based on the position of rainbows and other atmospheric phenomena.
There were some science demonstrations which didn't really work as well as hoped, and Cynthia Barnett then gave a short summary of the importance of 'Rain' based on her new book. I enjoyed this session.
A musical interlude followed, the first of several songs featuring Lisa Knapp, accompanied by Mara Carlyle, who is one of the presenters of Radio 3's excellent 'Late Junction' programme.
There was a nice lunch in the garden, sat in the sun, with a cloud based camera obscura that had been constructed.

I took the opportunity after we'd eaten to wander down to the shops of the Science museum (where there was an excellent exhibition on Cosmonauts) and the Natural History museum.

The afternoon session started with a folk song of the sea, followed by what was described as the 'science bit'. Dr. Sandrine Bony had travelled from Paris, where she has worked with the IPCC – Clouds and climate change was the focus, and she provided a range of useful satellite data and other information on the importance of water in the atmosphere.

I left the room for the the slight 'sales-pitchy' talk with the sponsor.

The final talks involved Alexandra Harris taking us back to the culture of the views of the sky in literature, going right back to the Bible, and chatted to a few of the delegates. As it happened, someone I know on Twitter was there, but I hadn't realised he was there. The final talk was from Richard Hamblyn who wrote a book on Luke Howard, the man who named the clouds. I have this book from some years back, and it's a good read. He told of the efforts to have a blue plaque added for Luke Howard's achievements.

On leaving, we were able to pick up a goodie bag which provided a nice new enamel badge, a cloud spotter wheel and other goodies, including a nice customised notebook.
A rather fine way to spend the day, followed by a 5 mile walk across London back to get the train home, under skies which were still blue, but now had more clouds in them than before.

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