Stunning Time-Lapse Video: The Fury of Storm Clouds

The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 6 2013 8:00 AM

The Oncoming Storm

lightning
Lightning erupts under a storm cloud.

Photo by Jim Bailey, from the video

Astronomers have an understandable fascination with weather. It affects our observations directly, of course (unless we observe from space, or use observatories that see through clouds). Plus, as I’ve said here many times, we look up. We notice the clouds, the color and texture of the sky, the incredible interaction of light and air that can produce stunning optical effects.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

I love pictures of weather, especially storms. Still, those static, unchanging photos sometimes lack that needed extra dimension to give you a sense of depth. In particular, that extra dimension can be time. When you see the motion of the clouds, you get a far better grasp of the perspective, the layering, the overwhelming scale of the phenomenon.

Advertisement

Photographer Jim Bailey can provide that dimension. His time-lapse video “Nimbus, Part II: Turbulence” is a riveting display of the fury of the sky. Make sure you set it to HD, make it full screen, and turn the volume up.

[Note: He has a warning about people sensitive to bright strobing flashes, so be ye fairly warned.]

That’s simply stunning. I have a hard time picking out my favorite bits, but I do like it when storm clouds and clouds at a different height are moving in different directions. That is a striking display of perspective, as are the rays of sunlight bursting from the clouds fanning out and moving as the cloud travels along the wind.

The colors are amazing too. Teal, green, blue, red, white: All of these are from sunlight mixing, scattering, interacting with air, dust, and moisture above us. The colors combine with the shapes of the clouds to create a gorgeous (if sometimes terrifying) tapestry, telling the story of the outrageously complex physics of fluid dynamics made into literally high art.

This being Part II, there is obviously a first installment, too, and you really want to watch Nimbus Part I: The Quiet Sky. It starts off in black and white, which emphasizes texture and structure, and when the colors come in, well, wow.  I can’t wait for Part III, which Bailey told me is titled “Rotation”. That one sounds like a fitting piece of this story.

Tip o’ the lens cap to the We Love Timelapse! Facebook group.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Behold
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 2 2014 10:42 AM The Hanging Coffins of Sagada
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?