You’ve seen the forecast and decided to spend the day outdoors, but can you anticipate unexpected weather changes when you’re out there? If you want to keep a step ahead of the wind and rain, learn to read the clouds. When weather takes a turn for the worse, it impacts outdoor activities on land and water, making navigation harder and increasing the risk of hypothermia or even lightning strikes.

The clue to changing weather is in the sky, as different cloud types have different weather associated with them; a look at some of the main types that it is worth learning to recognise. Hill walking gives you more chance of encountering some attractive types of cloud that few see, such as cloud inversions with a brocken spectre.

Important information comes from observing changing cloud patterns  for instance is the cloud thickening or the base dropping? From experience you can improve your forecasting abilities, by making a habit of noticing the sky and relating clouds to subsequent weather. By being forewarned, you can retreat, change your route, or  on days with a surprising improvement in conditions  go for more than you had planned.

This 5-page feature appeared in Scotland Outdoors magazine Nov/Dec 2014 issue, illustrated as usual with my own photos. Click below to visit the magazine’s website.

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