Cloud reference, the hard way

Ah, storm clouds. So beautiful and exciting! If one of your characters is going to fly through a storm cloud, you’re going to need some cloud reference. And what better way to get it than to paraglide through the clouds?

Paraglider in the clouds
No storm cloud reference is worth this!

Before you sign up for classes, consider the story of Ewa Wiśnierska, a German paragliding champion who did just that. During a routine practice in Australia, Ewa was sucked into a storm cloud where, amidst lightning and 40 mph updrafts that caused her to lose control of the paraglider, she was battered around by icy winds and huge hailstones for almost an hour. Her altitude reached over 6 miles at one point. That’s half a mile higher than the peak of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on earth!

This documentary about Ewa’s experience shows a chilling re-enactment of what it’s like to be stuck in a storm cloud.

Ewa was unconscious during most of the ordeal, which saved her life in the cloud’s subzero temperatures. When Ewa started to drop out of the cloud, she regained consciousness and safely landed 37 miles away from where she started, having suffered only minor injuries.

As an upside, we now understand more about cloud suck and storm clouds thanks to Ewa’s experience. If you’re going to animate the action inside a storm cloud, check out the documentary for some great reference material.

Still want to fly through a storm cloud? Check out Chapter 7 of Physics for Animators for even more reasons why this isn’t a good idea!

Post Author: Michele Bousquet

Michele Bousquet is the author of Physics for Animators. A longtime animator, teacher, and writer, Michele has written more than 20 books on computer graphics. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from McGill University.