Eric Sloane: Weatherman

I've spent the day with the books by Eric Sloane (1905-1985), American illustrator, author, painter, pilot, and weatherman. What a joy. His clean, simple, and often light-hearted illustrations of basic and complex meteorological phenomena are making my job as a cloudspotter much easier and more enjoyable.

From Day One, I've struggled with the concept of high and low pressure as it relates to the movement of air and formation of clouds. Does "low" refer to altitude or intensity? Does high refer to altitude or intensity? Low can mean "light" and high can mean "heavy." The difference between low and high might be obvious to everyone else on the planet, but I also struggle with the use of the color blue to indicate cold and red to indicate hot. Shouldn't white (like ice) mean cold and orange (like fire) mean hot?

I think one of Eric Sloane's six wives must have had a brain like mine. His illustrations, such as the one above, is more comprehensible than a thousand words on the topic in any of my weather books. I was introduced to Sloane by a student in a watercolor class at the Olympia Center. His 1950 book Skies and the Artist: How to Draw Clouds and Sunsets was republished by Dover in 2006. Artist or no, this is a great book for understanding how to see the clouds in 3-D and, according to Sloane, how to "paint the heavens and clouds intelligently." Understanding cloud anatomy, he believes, is the key to painting realistic clouds.

Sloane wrote some fifty books in his lifetime, including Look at the Sky...and Tell the Weather, Eric Sloane's Weather Book, and Eric Sloane's Weather Almanac from which this illustration was taken. When I go cloudspotting around town, I try to superimpose this image over the landscape and cloudscape so I can "see" the pressure. Of course, high- and low-pressure areas are usually too massive to see from one point on the ground, but it is possible from certain vantage points to see the high cirrus clouds of a high pressure area and the low statocumulus clouds of a low pressure area at once.

More on Eric Sloane in future writings. Meanwhile, say high to your barometer for me.