The Ten Main Types of Clouds

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Here at Storm Team 3… we love clouds… and are often accused of having our head in-the-clouds. We take that as a compliment… since we are constantly tracking the weather!

Do you look up and wonder what types of clouds you are seeing? Well… you might as well be able to ID them. Here is some cloud 101 for you!

Clouds are categorized by their height… appearance and vertical development. There are 4 main varieties… with each broken down into types.
High Clouds – generally above 23,000 feet
Middle Clouds – 7,000-23,000 feet
Low Clouds – below 7,000 feet
Vertically developed clouds (via convection)
HIGH CLOUDS…
Cirrus… are made of ice crystals… they are thin and wispy. Usually Indicate fair weather.
Cirrocumulus… are small… rounded white puffs individually or in long rows (fish scales; mackerel sky).
Cirrostratus… are thin and sheetlike… with sun and moon clearly visible through them… a halo is common – indicates ice… often precede precipitation.
MID CLOUDS…
Altostratus… gray… blue-gray… often covers the entire sky. Sun or moon may show through dimly… usually no shadows.
Altocumulus… mostly water drops… often supercooled. Gray and puffy. Differences from cirrocumulus… larger puffs and more dark/light contrast.
LOW CLOUDS

Stratus… uniform and gray. Resembles fog that does not reach the ground. Usually no precipitation… but light mist/drizzle possible.

Stratocumulus… low lumpy clouds. Breaks (usually) between cloud elements. Lower base and larger elements than altostratus.
Nimbostratus… dark gray. Continuous light to moderate rain or snow, Evaporating rain below can form stratus fractus.
VERTICALLY DEVELOPED CLOUDS (VIA CONVECTION)
Cumulus… look like puffy “cotton”. Flat base and rounded top. More space between cloud elements than stratocumulus.
Cumulonimbus… the thunderstorm cloud. Very tall, often reaching tropopause. Individual or grouped. Large energy release from water vapor condensation.
Do you have a weather question? Drop me a line at fhaywood@wsav.com. Also… follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WSAV-Meteorologist-Lee-Haywood-206886219344080/?fref=ts and Twitter at @LeeHaywood_WSAV.

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