To my question, “Do you even know what and anvil is? “ the Cub Scouts replied, “Sure. It’s what Wile E. Coyote drops on the Roadrunner.” The Scouts were participating in a Crossroads program on clouds which had a safety component (which I hope they remember in during this summer of erratic weather.)
The scouts were learning to recognize the clouds that could indicate dangerous weather. Before Smart Phones and up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, most people knew to scan the skies and to take cover if clouds were threatening. Cauliflower-shaped clouds with dark grey undersides are ominous, but dark anvil shaped- clouds mean head for shelter NOW. But why?
A cloud is a mass of water molecules floating in the sky. When sunlight hits these molecules, all of the colors of the spectrum are scattered more or less equally, so most clouds appear white.
But clouds heavy with rain droplets are far thicker. The water molecules are larger too, so they tend to absorb rather than scatter light. Actually, droplets in storm clouds get so dense that they can block out the sunlight altogether, and without sunlight shining through, storm clouds appear grey or black.
When a storm is forming, the clouds are high and so cold that the droplets freezing into snow or ice crystals. Some clouds billow so high they hit a warm mass of air . That causes the cloud to spread, forming the flat-topped anvil shape. But inside this kind of cloud, it is chaos, with wind currents going up and down. The snow and ice crystals usually melt into raindrops as they fall, but this kind of cloud can spawn strong winds and serious lightening.
It’s good to recognize an anvil cloud, but it’s also interesting to learn about the metal objects for which they were named. On Thursday and Sunday afternoons this week, the Door County Historical Society will offer Blacksmithing Demonstrations in the Lean-to of the Peterson Granary in the Heritage Village from 1:30-3:30. Visitors at these free programs can watch and talk to the blacksmiths and apprentices as they fashion useful items on the anvil. Many of the items will be available for purchase.