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Cloud-Spotting from the SkyPark

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 27 May 2019  


Being a tropical country, Singapore gets its fair share of sunshine and thunderstorms. This makes for some fascinating sky formations and beautiful photo opportunities.


blue skies with clouds


And though a wide open space in Singapore may be difficult to come by, especially in the city, there’s always the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark. At 200 metres above sea level, you're pretty much guaranteed unrestricted views of the heavens unfolding right above. While meteorology enthusiasts will particularly delight in this activity at the SkyPark, anyone with an appreciation for nature will enjoy cloud spotting.

Singapore is home to a variety of clouds, each an indication of the kind of weather that’s happening above our heads. The most common type of clouds over Singapore are cumulus. These are also the easiest to spot with their distinctive puffy shapes and white fluffy appearances with dome-shaped tops. They usually occur in high pressure areas, indicating good weather - but may also portend the arrival of thunder, lightning, and plenty of tropical rain.


stormy skies


Speaking of thunderstorms, the large grey clouds that gather are called cumulonimbus clouds. These storm clouds are similar in appearance to cumulus clouds with the obvious difference in their colour. Their domes can extend beyond 40,000 feet and bring heavy rain to the island. Although Singapore is just one degree north of the equator, these clouds have been known to bring the odd hailstorm as well. Look for these clouds from the SkyPark but be prepared to head into one of its restaurants or bars if you’re looking to stay dry.

It doesn’t always rain in Singapore. Sometimes it’s just a drizzle. When that happens you’re probably looking up at stratus clouds. These clouds are layered with a slightly grey appearance. While similar in appearance to their nimbus cousins, stratus clouds bring light sprinkles.


cirrocumulus clouds


Often in the evenings, a SkyPark viewer may look to the seas and see patches or ripples of clouds that appear to be curling over themselves. These clouds have a scaly appearance and are formed at high altitudes. These cirrocumulus clouds begin at about five kilometres above the earth and can extend upwards to 12 kilometres. Such clouds don’t usually last as long and are often the result of cumulonimbus clouds breaking up after a storm. Because of their ability to reflect sunlight, and in the process paint the skies with orange, red, violet, and purple shades, they are some of Singapore’s most beautiful cloud formations.

If you’ve ever seen a white cloud coming out of an airplane, you probably know it’s not a cloud in the strictest sense. These vapour trails are formed by the condensation of water from the exhaust of the aircraft engines, and also from changes in pressure on the tip of the aircraft’s wings. These vapour trails, or contrails, appear to emerge from the aircraft and grow wider, to eventually dissipate, as the plane moves away. These contrails may be artificial but are nonetheless fascinating to watch.


And because the SkyPark offers unrestricted views – all you have to do is look straight up – you may well catch a glimpse or two of the vapour trails from high-flying aircraft. And if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be in a cloud, head to the Cloud Forest at the Gardens by the Bay. The indoor structure contains a 35-metre tall mountain and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The temperature is cool and moist with plenty of mist, which after all is what a cloud is made from – little droplets of water vapour!


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