Types of Cloud
Part of the Weather For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Clouds play a large role in discussing, predicting, and watching the weather — not to mention providing scope for daydreams and flights of fancy. The following list describes the common cloud types that form in various layers of the atmosphere — their names and what they look like — as well as clouds that form vertically.
High layered (above 17,000 feet):
Cirrus: Delicate white strands of ice crystals, often forming mares tails.
Cirrostratus: A veil of white cloudiness often covering the entire sky, causing halos around the moon and Sun and frequently indicating an approaching storm.
Cirrocumulus: Small white patchy patterns like fish scales and often called mackerel skies.
Middle layered (6,000 to 17,000 feet):
*Altostratus: Drab gray clouds of water droplets that obscure the image of the sun or moon. They can produce rain and snow.
Altocumulus: A darker, larger pattern of patchiness that may produce a shower.
Low layered (below 6,000 feet):
Stratus: Wispy cloud of fog that hangs a few hundred feet above the ground, often bringing drizzle.
Stratocumulus: Dark gray clouds, often covering the entire sky, which usually do not rain. They form rounded wavelike bands that are broken by blue sky.
Nimbostratus: Low, dark, ragged rain clouds that often bring continuous rain or sleet or snow.
Cumulus: Large, billowy cotton balls of clouds with dark bottoms and bright white tops that can reach 10,000 feet high. May produce brief showers.
Cumulonimbus: Towering thunderheads, dark on the bottom and white anvil-shaped tops that can extend to 50,000 feet. Often produces lightning and heavy precipitation, including hail, and occasionally tornadoes.