Understanding Weather – Look at Clouds For Weather Information
If you lose your compass and map in the wilderness and have no idea of exactly where you are, you will have to look at the natural environment for subtle changes in weather patterns. Taking a good assessment of the weather helps you to plan your next move as you see the possibility of rain or snow coming.
By knowing how the rain might induce flooding along a nearby river or how the rising sun can illuminate an area you need to reach quickly you gain clarity and can proceed safely, being well aware of the dangers and chances ahead.
Primitive men understand this intuitively and have gone so far in being connected with nature that it requires a lot little guesswork for them to assess the weather. Farmers look into the possible amount of rainfall in the clouds to judge whether their crops will stay dry or gain nourishment, or be overrun with floods.
The Vikings are said to have mastered the art of looking at the clouds to ascertain weather patterns in a time when the compass was not available and sailed through both saltwater and freshwater to plunder and conquer and may be said to be best sea navigators in history. By possessing the skill of looking into the clouds to detect the weather, you gain a decisive edge over the forces in your environment and increase the chances of your survival.
While this is an imprecise method, it may be your only recourse if the sun and stars are not helping.
Clouds can still be visible even on nights when the sky is too dark and the morning sun is wrapped in a foggy haze from where you’re standing. If you know how hard it will rain, you can set up an improvised water collection system to collect water when you cannot trust the nearest water sources or when there is none available. If it seems that it will rain too hard, you can save yourself from further survival pressures by breaking camp and attempting to relocate or strengthening your shelter.
Cirrus clouds appear wispy like hair on a mare’s head higher than most clouds. A few cirrus clouds indicate that fair weather is on the way. If you see them growing in number and almost covering the sky, expect rain within 24 hours.
Altocumulus clouds are seen mid-level and appear like large cotton puffs of white and grey. If seen on warm and humid mornings, it foreshadows rain in the afternoon.
Cumulus clouds look like puffy white cotton in against a fair and blue sky. These often bunch together vertically into a cauliflower head shape into what is called cumulus congestus. While these are fair weather clouds, they can cause a short rain shower.
Cumulonimbus clouds are huge and towering clouds with dark bottoms that can produce wind, rain, hail, lighting and tornadoes. As seen in dramatic openings in some movies, these are the most dangerous of all the clouds.
If seen, keep yourself and your camp on full alert and leave the area if you can. If the rain is already on its way and you start to hear thunder, fortify and secure your shelter and keep your gear inside, taking careful to hold it down to the ground and give it more weight.
Evacuating while the rain hits hard will increase the chances of injury and if there is no shelter or cover to hide in, hold tightly unto the nearest tree until the storm is over.
Stratus clouds are low hanging clouds that appear almost greyish and bring misty rain or snow. In areas way above sea level, these can reach the ground and form fog. Mountaineers deal with these clouds directly not just for survival but also for enjoyment, as the mist can be cool enough to camp in.
While we cannot control the weather, we can control how the weather can possibly affect us. If we cannot overcome it, we can at least allow ourselves to not be overcome. Imagine what would happen if you could not tell the weather by the clouds and a storm hits. With this knowledge, you won’t go down as easily.
Next we look at Navigation in the Wilderness