Asperitas Cloud Feature: Chaotic, Wavy Underneath

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Definition: An altocumulus or stratocumulus cloud feature describing a chaotic and turbulent underside

Description & Characteristics. The ‘asperitas’ cloud feature can be found amongst two cloud types: altocumulus and stratocumulus. Translated from latin, meaning harshness, the two types of asperitas clouds are respectively abbreviated as ‘Ac asp’, and ‘Sc asp’. Though they’re not inherently dangerous, asperitas clouds are most recognizable through their turbulent and chaotic undersides. A well-defined asperitas cloud formation is unmistakable and unlike any other cloud formation.

The best way to describe these clouds would be if you jumped into the ocean wearing goggles, swam down 5 to 10 feet, and looked back towards the surface of the water. It’s still up in the air how asperitas clouds are formed, but they usually appear in an unstable atmosphere where shear is present. As a cloudspotter, note that they’re usually paired with the stratiformis cloud species. They’re sometimes confused with mammatus clouds (mamma cloud feature) since both cloud features appear to be sinking from the cloud base.

These clouds are often coined undulatus asperitas, but you should note that technically speaking, the asperitas cloud feature shouldn’t always be classified alongside the undulatus cloud variety. Asperitas clouds do have a swirling and undulating feel to them, but it’s important to note that undulatus clouds have more predictable, uniform undulations. With a standalone asperitas cloud formation, there’s no discernable pattern. There are instances however where the cloud is both chaotic and undulating, where an undulatus asperitas classification would be appropriate.

The asperitas cloud feature is a new cloud feature and was only officially recognized in 2017. Asperitas clouds are especially rare and usually cause a lot of social media buzz when they’re spotted. Take lots of pictures when you see them because you might not see them again for a while.

Altocumulus stratiformis opacus asperitas (Ac str op asp)
Altocumulus stratiformis asperitas (Ac str asp)
Altocumulus stratiformis opacus asperitas (Ac str op asp)
Altocumulus stratiformis opacus asperitas (Ac str op asp)

Asperitas Cloud Types

The asperitas cloud feature is associated with only two cloud types: altocumulus and stratocumulus.

A graphical illustration of an altocumulus asperitas cloud

Altocumulus (Ac)

Mid-altitude cloud heaps

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus asperitas cloud

Stratocumulus (Sc)

Low, puffy layer