Wispy – an altostratus view of things

Fletch Blunden

With acknowledgement to Hazel Lawley,
and thanks to ‘Lovely Linda’ Smart.
The facts are scientifically verified.
But I’ve changed the names
to protect the guilty.
That’s all of us.
Yes, you –
& me.

I’m big for a cloud. But, long and thin. I drift around the southern hemisphere way up in the sky like an eagle. You can see a lot from up here. But, I don’t get to see a lot of land.

I like the Andes the best. It’s quite a buzz, the orographic effect. Just as you leave the huge Pacific Ocean, all the air has to get up over the mountains as they spin behind you to the west. Whoosh. Then it’s up and over you go. Then it’s down, down, down the other side—my little roller coaster. After that, it’s into the South Atlantic. Lots of storms down below today. Africa drifts past to the north as I wander calmly over the Indian Ocean. The only other bit of land I go over is the southern tip of mainland Australia. Melbourne is the only city I’ve seen close up. Then I cross the Tasman Sea, skirting the top of New Zealand, which brings me back into the Pacific.

The life of a cloud depends a lot on where you’re born. I’m lucky I was born way up in the stratosphere. Sure we have upper level troughs. I’m in one now. But it’s relatively benign. No one up here cries much. We all stay out of each other’s way, and just calmly drift though our long peaceful lives. Most of the clouds up here don’t even bother going to the Meteorological Society meetings. Some aren’t even members. I don’t blame them. Most of the Temperate Group’s meetings are taken over by problems in the lower atmosphere anyway.

They get into these low pressure discussions—what a downer. So depressing; especially the cold fronts. That’s where the arguments invariably start. They whip the poor little cumulus and cumulonimbus around and around like a pack of those squabbling Noisy Minor birds. They’re always having fights with each other, those cumulonimbus clouds—lots of arguments as they crash into each other all the time. They cry a lot. They get so angry, sometimes they bellow thunder and spit lightning bolts at each other. Scary stuff. No wonder they don’t live long. They cry so much they just cry themselves to death. Noisy meetings, when the cumulonimbus take over. You try and contribute to the discussion but they just ignore you. They call you names, like wispy or air-head. I reckon they’re all a pack of dense depressives.

I hear the Tropical Group meetings are worse. They had to abandon the last one. It all got completely out of control. Cyclone season up there. It just takes one cyclone to create problems for everybody. Even some of the altostratus got sucked into the argument. So destructive those real deep lows. It eventually settled down, but the damage had been done. They downgraded the cyclone to a tropical storm, most embarrassing. Then it left the coast and drifted away because everyone stopped arguing with it.

Not sure I’ll bother to keep going to meetings. At the last one they got into a huge argument about the low pressure systems getting compressed towards Antarctica. It went on for hours. Clouds complaining they can’t rain on Victoria anymore. Clouds complaining Tasmania’s getting too much rain. Others complaining the low pressure systems are so deep now, the ocean swells are eroding the Tasmanian coast. It went on and on. Cumulus arguing with cumulonimbus. Thunder and lightning—the works. It all ended in tears. Nothing I could do to help.

I cry because it’s gradually getting hotter and hotter up here. Don’t like the heat, it dries me out and I get wispier. Not a lot of moisture up here, so if you cry it’s hard to grow. When I cry it comes out as virga. It never reaches the ground. Now, that’s sad.

Why is it getting hotter and dryer in Melbourne year by year, but colder and wetter in Tasmania? I don’t know. But, I don’t think the Meteorological Society knows, and I don’t think they have any chance of fixing it either. That’s why sometimes I cry.