There is nothing new under the sun, it is written in Ecclesiastes. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to cloud types — the wavy clouds that invaded the skies of the Roanoke and New River valleys late Tuesday afternoon ahead of an unexpected line of rain showers have been in our skies before, many times. But they were of a type that has not yet drawn its own classification name, and some weather scientists and enthusiasts are pushing for the name “undulatus asperatus” to be applied to the clouds. The clouds are generally caused by warm, moist air overriding cool, dry air, and then being undulated and sculpted by wavy wind flow aloft. Such wave-like wind flow often occurs over mountain ranges, so we should expect to see these clouds from time to time in our skies when the conditions are right. They have been considered a subset of altocumulus, altostratus or stratocumulus in the past, or even somewhat related to mammatus clouds, but if the cloud’s promoters are successful, undulatus asperatus may become the first new cloud type recognized since 1951. So you didn’t see a new kind of cloud type on Tuesday, but may have seen a cloud worthy of its own new type. (Inset photo taken by Miranda Beck in Salem.)
Summer is likely to make a brief encore on Wednesday, and to a lesser extent, on Thursday. We are on the warm side of low pressure and a slow-moving cold front in the Ohio Valley. Tuesday’s surprise showers were the first manifestation of this switch, as some Gulf of Mexico moisture overran the cool, dry air that has dominated our weather for days. With ample sunshine that is expected Wednesday, highs could go well into the 80s — a random 90-degree reading in Southside may not be out of the question. Thursday could be almost as warm, but as the week transpires, we’ll be more affected by the sluggish front and disturbances moving along it. It will be difficult to time rounds of showers and some storms through the weekend, but most days from Thursday into early next week are likely to have some chance of showers. Hopefully the timing will be a bit more clear as the new weather setup unfolds.