The Wonderful World of Clouds

Knowing your Clouds when flying a light aircraft without an instrument rating is a fairly important thing to learn. They hardly ever look like the charts pinned up in the club hut as shown above. They are usually a mixture of everything and in Lancashire can change rapidly.

Flat even looking clouds are usually no problem with the exception of low stratus. An early morning take off has often caught me out as the ground has disappeared from view on the climb out at about 300 feet. This means an embarassing very low level circuit to creep around back to to the runway. Ten minutes later it might lift and reveal blue sky.

Virga is really just rain, nothing magic about it. If it rains light enough and the air is dry and/or warm enough that most/all of the rain evaporates before hitting the ground, you have virga.
As for flying though it under a layer of cumulus with no convective activity then the isolated showers you see are fairly benign, virga or not.

If things are starting to tower and you're seeing other evidence of lumpy clouds (convective activity) - increased and varying cloud development, macro-rotation, mammulus clouds, wall clouds, etc, then showers can be indicative of downdraft activity, virga or not - especially if they come and go rapidly in various places or are found at the trailing edge of line with clear conditions beyond. That's a sign of downdraft and microburst activity forcing the precipitation out of the cloud structure. Keep well away.

On the whole though ,clouds are magical things and why I joined the Cloud Appreciaton Society


England Rain Clouds Virga

Very odd looking Mammulus usually warm still conditions at ground level at dawn

Keep well away from these CumuloNimbus in any aircraft

Alto Cumulus

Cumulus over the airstrip

Low level stratus that often catches you out.

Fair weather Cumulus

View some clouds

The Cloud Appreciation Society