OVER the last couple of weeks I’ve been away on holiday, staycationing with a bucket and spade. And an umbrella.

One of the mainstays of having a break in the UK is keeping a constant eye on the weather. Back in the day, you’d wait for the report at the end of the evening news. This year, I found myself swiping my smartphone for up-to-date information – an array of apps claiming to tell you to the minute precisely when it might be about to rain. Even the latest technology, however, is not infallible. As I can soggily testify.

But watching the clouds roll by isn’t all about staying dry: there’s pleasure, too, to be gained in admiring and appreciating their beauty. Next Saturday, Salisbury Arts Centre plays host to Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Pretor-Pinney has long been a lover of clouds and back in 2004 founded the Cloud Appreciation Society to celebrate them – ‘nature’s poetry’ as he called them – and stop them from being regarded as a metaphor for doom.

It turned out Pretor-Pinney was far from alone in his love of clouds – today, the society has over 43,000 members in 119 countries around the world. In 2006, Pretor-Pinney published The Cloudspotters’ Guide, which quickly became a runaway bestseller. It’s a fascinating guide through the ten main different types of cloud, taking the reader through how to spot them, along with their scientific and cultural background.

Cirrus, the high wispy one, comes from the Latin for a lock of hair. Cumulus, the fluffy white cotton wool one no English summer should be without, are the spiritual cousins of elephants, according to ancient Hindu and Buddhist belief.

Cumulonimbus, the so-called King of Clouds, is the one to watch out for when it comes to avoiding hail, snow, thunder and torrential rain. They say every cloud has a silver lining, but cumulonimbus’s is more of a wet, grey one. Such is the power of these clouds, that a single one contains the energy equivalent of ten Hiroshima bombs.

But even cumulonimbus at its most thunderous plays a crucial role in looking after the Earth. Cloud cover is a huge factor in keeping the planet cool and one of the big unknowables of global warming is the effect that it will have on the clouds.

If rising temperatures mean fewer clouds, then fewer clouds will mean that temperatures in turn will rise even faster. So if you’re back at work, bemoaning the wet weather you’ve had on your holiday, maybe think of it as having done your bit to help save the planet.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s Cloudspotting for Beginners is at Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday, September 2, at 7.30pm.