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The Sunday Read: ‘The Amateur Cloud Society That (Sort Of) Rattled the Scientific Community’


The cultural history of clouds seemed to be shaped by amateurs — the likes of Luke Howard and the Honorable Ralph Abercromby — each of whom projected the ethos of his particular era onto those billowing blank slates in the troposphere. Gavin Pretor-Pinney was our era’s.

It was while Mr. Pretor-Pinney was living in Rome, where he encountered frescoes and paintings crowded with clouds, that his preoccupation began. And out of this preoccupation came the Cloud Appreciation Society: an online community, thousands strong, devoted to sharing images of clouds.

On today’s Sunday Read, the story of the Cloud Appreciation Society and how Mr. Pretor-Pinney, backed by good will, challenged the cloud authorities.


“The Daily” is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Kelly Prime, Julia Longoria, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Rachelle Bonja. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Mikayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Nora Keller, Sofia Milan and Desiree Ibekwe.

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