Primary Research

While researching for my project I came across two main societies that might be able to help me with my research: the cloud appreciation society and the royal meteorologist society. I have emailed both of these societies hoping to get a reply. I tweaked the email to suit each society as obviously there are a few differences, I didn’t want the email to sound like I was sending it to loads of different places, I wanted it to sound more personal, in hope that I would get a reply. Here is one of the emails I sent:

‘To whom it may concern,
I am a University student studying photography, for my final project of my first year I am doing a photographic piece in response to a haiku poem by Matsuo Basho:
‘Clouds appear
and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.’
The brief for our project is very open, the only things we have to concentrate on is making a book as our final piece and including a narrative within this. This narrative can be fictional or non-fictional, therefore almost anything. The obvious response to this is to concentrate on the sky and mainly the clouds, to incorporate the narrative I am thinking about the people that are cloud watching and where they may have been or what they may have been thinking at the time- for example indents in the grass where they have been laying. I came across your society when doing research for this project, and was surprised to see how many different local centres there are, this is very different to any other similar society I have found. I realise your society isn’t directly linked to cloud watching, however I do think that you will be able to help. I don’t know many facts about clouds myself and was wondering if you could give me any information that you think I might find useful? What sort of events do you attend and talk at? Maybe help with my narrative, are there any reoccurring facts that you have found out about the people joining your society? Or maybe just some more facts in general about your society that isn’t present on your webpage?

I was also wondering if you could send me any minutes or information from meetings or conferences that are held, this would be of great interest to me and could also inform me a lot for my project. As well as this are there any meetings in the coming weeks that you may be holding? I would be very interested in coming along if that was possible. The term and deadline for my project are quickly approaching, I realise that this request will not be high on your priority list, but any information that you can send me would be greatly appreciated. In return I could send you copies of my pictures/ final piece if this was of any interest to you.

I hope to hear from you soon,
Kind regards
Bethany Crisp​​​’
As you can see within my email I wanted to briefly describe my project, I think this not only allows the reader to feel more connected to it but may also help them when deciding what information would be better suited for me. Of course any information they can send I would appreciate as this could send me on a new idea. I also messaged 4 Facebook groups a similar message, hoping that this less formal way of contact would also warrant a reply and information of some sort.
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Unfortunately I am yet to have any success from these types of communication. My tutor suggested sending a letter if there was an address provided so I did do this to the cloud appreciation society. Shortly after I received a response from them:
‘Dear Bethany
Thank you for your email. I have checked back on the replies and note that I indicated Gavin would be in touch if he could to help you with your project. I have double checked with him and unfortunately, due to constraints on his time he is unable to assist on this occasion.
With kind regards
Thinking further into this I wondered if there was anyone else that I could contact within the society who would have the time to talk to me and provide the information I needed. There was no other email addresses on the site and after responding to the reply I sent asking for other contacts with no response I decided to tweet the society in hope that other members may read it and get in touch with me. This was a long shot but I had nothing to lose in doing this. Being restricted to 140 characters I couldn’t go into as much detail as I had wanted however the main idea was there.
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I am still waiting on replies from the tweet and Facebook messages. However I have received a reply from two people at the royal meteorologist society based in different areas:
‘Dear Bethany,
thankyou for your letter. The best advice I can give is for you to look at the book by Gordon Manley, Climate and the British Scene. It has quite a few cloud pictures but they are set against the rest of the view. His chapter called Climate and Man is also thought provoking. Another interesting source from the point of view of flying is the book by Anne Douglas, Cloud reading for pilots. The RMS journal Weather often includes cloud pictures, but bearing in mind the nature of your project the human aspect of the sky is probably best accounted for in Manley’s book.Best wishes, Colin Clark’

‘Dear Miss Crisp.
Thank you for your e-mail.
Clouds are very important in meteorology and in flight safety.  Thunder clouds for example have to be avoided because of potential icing on aircraft, turbulence whilst in flight and the very high probability of crashing.  Clouds can also indicate winds at high level as well as the movement of weather.
I can suggest some sources for initial use which may bei n your university library.
The best books that I can suggest are;
The Cloud Book, published by the Meteorological Office.
Weather Wonders, again by the Meteorological Office.
The Invention of Clouds by Richard Hamblyn.  This is a history of cloud reporting and observing.  Cloud type reporting is based very much on Luke Howard’ work in the early part of the 19th century.
You wonder about peoples reaction to watching clouds. That is a very important part of weather observing; I spent 30 years just watching clouds while I was working as a meteorological observer and supervisor!
As to meetings, I regret that the East Midlands branch of the Royal Meteorological Society does not have any local meetings.  
I hope this information is of help, but if however I can be of further help, please contact me again.
R W Phillips (Roger)’
This information really helped as I was unaware that these books even existed let alone could provide me with any information that could help my project. These are more about the facts about clouds that could help me, something that I have been struggling to find, hopefully by reading these books I can get some more information that I was unaware of which will help towards the development of my project. Other areas to look into have also been suggested which I wouldn’t of even considered without someone pushing me in the right direction, this may not effect my project so late in the term, or effect what I will include in my final piece, however researching and knowing the information on what you are going to be presenting/ talking about is always important. By reading these I could find a new narrative or way to present my work.
I have since received other replies as seen below:
‘Dear Bethany,
thankyou for your letter. The best advice I can give is for you to look at the book by Gordon Manley, Climate and the British Scene. It has quite a few cloud pictures but they are set against the rest of the view. His chapter called Climate and Man is also thought provoking. Another interesting source from the point of view of flying is the book by Anne Douglas, Cloud reading for pilots. The RMS journal Weather often includes cloud pictures, but bearing in mind the nature of your project the human aspect of the sky is probably best accounted for in Manley’s book.

Best wishes, Colin Clark’

‘Dear Bethany
The RMetS range of interest certainly includes skies and clouds.  Dr John Thornes  at Birmingham has organised a number of meetings on Weather and Art.  Other people have given talks on paintings and weather.  A book called Spacious Skies by Richard Scorer and Arjen Verkaik was published in 1989.  This called itself ‘The Ultimate Cloud Book’.  An organisation called The Cloud Appreciation Society is run by a gentleman called Gavin Prettor-Pinney and he wrote a book called The Cloud Spotter’s Guide.  I hope this helps.
Richard Tabon’
‘Dear Bethany,
                     Thank you for your e-mail.  I have attached to this e-mail a document that describes the ten main cloud types.  The cloud classification system was invented by Luke Howard in the early 19th century.  You might want to contact my former colleague Professor John Thornes (  Professor Thornes has written a book about how the artist John Constable depicted clouds in his paintings.  He has written extensively about weather and art, including Monet’s series of paintings of the London skyline.  
          The West Midlands Centre usually holds its meetings from January to March.  We have never had a speaker talk explicitly about weather and clouds.  However, in 2013, a gentleman came to talk about his watercolours of skies over East Anglia.  I wish you well with your studies.
Best wishes,
Dr. Phillips’
‘Dear Bethany,

First of all, many apologies for not responding sooner, but I’ve been on holiday. Secondly, thank you for your enquiry, and I’ll do my best to respond helpfully.
A lot has been written on clouds, but mostly from the purely scientific point of view, for example,
Clouds, rain and rain-making  by B J Mason  Cambridge University Press
Of more use to you would be
The Cloudspotter’s Guide  by G Pretor-Pinney Sceptre Press
The Cloud Book  by R Hamblyn  David & Charles
Pretor-Pinney is also founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, go to:
I’ve also attached our programme for the NE Centre of the Royal Meteorological Society but you should also go to the Society’s main site for details of all the Centres, Specialist Groups and lecture programmes. You would be more than welcome to attend our NE Centre meetings, but I do not know where you are based and how practical it might be.
Do let me know if I can help further.
Cloud watching was, and is, a very important part of the job attached to an airfield weather observer.  The cloud is an indication of the state of the atmosphere, as well as an indication of approaching weather systems.
for example; the approach of a warm weather frontal system starts, in an ideal world, with cirrus at around 25000 ft. slowly lowering until it becomes altocumulus and alto stratus cloud from around 15000 ft. down to around 10000 ft.  Stratocumulus then enters at around 7000 ft and gradually lowers down to 1000 ft. when ragged stratus appears below the stratocumulus down, in some cases, to the surface.  Rain is associated with the cloud from around 12000 ft. and becomes moderate once the cloud base lowers.  Once the warm front clears stratus predominates until the following cold front arrives, then the cloud rapidly lifts and clear, colder air predominates.  This is when thunder type clouds begin to appear and showers take over from the continuous rain.  These are the most dangerous to aviation as up and down drafts can cause considerable stress on an airframe, should the aircraft get caught up in it, There is also severe icing attached to these clouds and they can reach heights of around 30000 ft. particularly in the tropics; imaging an aeroplane getting caught up in these clouds, it would be very frightening. The speeds of up and down draft are horrendous and can exceed 10 meters per second.  I stress this is an ideal situation and is not normally seen, due to the vagaries of the atmosphere and the cloud is not solid but in layers several hundred feet thick.
Cloud type and height is reported at half hourly intervals at civil aviation stations, and in bad weather more frequently.  At military stations reporting is at hourly intervals and, once again, more frequently in bad weather.
As to relaxation, in bad weather cloud observing was rather stressful, as a constant eye had to be kept on changes in cloud base, and in thunder situations, cloud type becomes very important, as the approach of thunderstorms can have an effect on many activities on an airfield.
I observed clouds and cloud base, as well as other weather elements, in the Indian Ocean and in the Middle East as part of my work and found it stimulating.
Having said all that, I did enjoy my work.
Hope this helps, and if I can be of further help please let me know.
Unfortunately these replies haven’t been able to have much, or any impact on my project due to the lateness of the replies that I received. I wish that I found this society earlier as everyone has been very helpful and given me a lot of information sources. Unfortunately by the time I received these the project was already nearing the end, thinking about sequencing and printing my final product. I already had a good idea of what my narrative was going to consist of and what my book was going to look like. Even the replies that I received earlier came a bit late to shape my project around as I was so far in already! Saying that I am very grateful for these replies and they certainly have educated me more, and from a more personal level, from people who have actually experienced these things and are very knowledgable because of this. The new knowledge that I can gain from these replies and source will certainly give me more confidence when talking about my project and has definitely made me more aware of the facts of what I am talking about so although the majority of the information has not been used within my project this was not a waste of time. If I had more time I would go over this information more thoroughly and see how this might change my views or even my project as a whole. Unfortunately we have a deadline to meet and it all came a little too late.