For a cloud-watcher like me, the past few days in the Pacific Northwest have been pretty dull, what with all that blue sky and sunshine and 95-degree days. The clouds didn't disappear entirely over Olympia during our heat wave. A few streaky cirrus showed up Friday night at sunset (a desperate play for attention) and piles of cumulus congestus lurked behind the east side of Mt. Rainier on Saturday.
Ah, but Sunday they came back in force to reclaim the skies and restore our corner of the continent as the cool, wet, gloomy-skied place that's looking pretty good to our vitamin-D-drenched neighbors in the Southwest.
The mild winds were shifting wildly on Saturday and the skies were kind of a mess on Sunday. There were many different kinds of clouds at different altitudes--making it hard to id them as anything but, ummm, stratocumulus fractus?? "Fractus" (same root as "fraction" or "fractured") is the word applied to the shreddy bits of clouds as the are deteriorating or evaporating.
I checked the the National Weather Service forecast description for Saturday and learned that the fractusness I was seeing was "CONVECTIVE DEBRIS FROM SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS OVER OREGON AND THE SOUTHERN WA CASCADES."
Convective debris. I love it! It's like saying cloudy junk.
Convective clouds are cumulus clouds--the ones that form puffs of varying sizes and include cumulus, stratocumulus, altocumulus, cumulus congestus, and cumulonimbus. The latter cloud produces the rain and lightning and "thundershowers." We didn't experience these events over the weekend in South Puget Sound; we got the side dishes and the leftovers, the "debris" from these clouds to our south.
And what beautiful debris it was.