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Are you interested in weird clouds and unique weather? Although you might think we wouldn’t have that many clouds here in the desert, during the late summer we have spectacular, sometimes violent, thunderstorms called “monsoons.” These storms can produce some highly unusual formations.

Last summer some friends and I were swimming in an outdoor pool. We were watching the sky carefully because a monsoon storm was approaching and we didn’t want to get caught in it. The sun was starting to go down when we noticed the most amazing colors in the clouds. We didn't see the usual rainbow colors, however, not the vibrant red-orange-yellow-green -blue-indigo-violet in an arch. Instead, these were the colors you would see in a pool of oily water. We saw greenish-blues, teals and magenta hues. The colors were all over the clouds, too, not like the small pieces of rainbows we call sundogs.

I wrote to a local expert asking about it, but I never heard anything back. I figured it was something like an airplane dumping fuel (it was right near the airport) had caused it, and that I’d never see it again.

This weekend, however, I found a webpage at The Firefly Forest with photos and an explanation. The author, T. Beth Kinsey calls them iridescent clouds. Aren’t they amazing? Take a look and let me know what you think.

We are feeling in a lazy, summer mood this week, so we're going to do some cloud watching. Grab a blanket, find a quiet place in the shade outside and look up at the clouds.

clouds

The weather has been in the news a lot lately. With practice, you can tell something about what the weather is going to do by checking the clouds. Most of us recognize there are different types of clouds, some puffy, some wispy and some that seem to cover the sky in an endless blanket. If you and your children get interested in learning the types, there are many good books with pictures and even cloud chart posters available to help you learn their names.

Are any of the clouds darker than others? Those probably contain a lot of water. Puffy clouds that begin to tower up, raising high into the sky might indicate a thunderstorm is building. Drab gray clouds that cover the sky suggest a gentle rain that is going to settle in all day.

If your child is ready, you can discuss what a cloud is made of and how the water cycle works. Ask them how they think rain forms. We once made simple stick puppets of a mountain stream, an ocean, trees and water with wavy lines representing evaporation, clouds, and funny rain drops with cat and dog faces on them ("raining cats and dogs"). Then we did stories incorporating ideas of the water cycle, but in a way that was gently humorous, such as the rain drops didn't want to leave the clouds, and the clouds had to shake them out. We still have the puppets, and do the show every once in awhile. Repetition is good for learning, and the children don't even know they are learning when something is fun.

What are clouds made of? Clouds are made up of more than water. In addition to bits of dust, micro-critters such as bacteria, fungi and algae get caught up in clouds.

But hey, it's a lazy summer day, so don't work too hard. Hum, that cloud looks just like a mattress, and mattresses are for sleeping. ZZZZZZZ....