All Weather News

What Kind of Cloud is That?

3 Aug 2017, 2:17 pm

Around here they call me the cloud nerd. It’s not a name I asked for, but I’m not mad about it either.
You see, I’ve been staring off into the clouds as long as I can remember. But all of that staring wasn’t time wasted.

There are a few different types of clouds that form at different levels in the atmosphere, and each one tells its own unique story.
We are going to focus on the basics in this article, but if you know something and want to share– feel free to do so on Facebook or Twitter!

Fair Weather Clouds

Let’s start things off on the bright side! (pun intended)


These are the high, wispy clouds on cirrus-ly beautiful days. (did it again)
These fair-weather clouds are comprised of ice crystals and do little to block the sun, but make for a beautiful sunrise or sunset.


Still high up in the atmosphere and associated with fair weather. Much their cousins the cirrus cloud but instead of wispy strands they are comprised of a collection of cotton-ball like clouds.


The most common of the middle clouds, you can often find these in many different layers and even mingling with different types of clouds.
Think of these ones like the mid-level clouds that aren’t congealed into one solid deck.


This low-level cloud usually forms in a sheet. Though more widespread than cumulus, this honey comb-like cloud seldom produces more than virga.


The cotton ball cloud. These fair-weather puffs are the ones we all draw in our childhood landscapes.

Overcast Skies

Cloudy with a chance of rain.


These are the very thin, super high clouds that typically cover the entire sky. Usually not thick enough to stop the formation of shadows.
These high-toppers are typically associated with a warm front, but not necessarily precipitation.


Dropping down a layer of the atmosphere, this mid-level sheet of clouds typically covers most or all of the sky. Though thick enough to stop shadow formation, the sun is usually visible through it.
Not typically associated with rain, these can produce a stray shower but if prolonged precipitation persists they actually become nimbostratus!


Getting down to business, these are the real weather-makers!


Starting where we left off– these mid-level rain makers are just the thickening of altostratus to the point of rain or snow!
At times low ragged clouds can hang down from the cloud deck then merge with the cloud formation, making for one cool sight.
These, like altostratus, are mid-level clouds but depending on formation and height can be classified as low-level or upper-level!


These are the rainy day clouds. (or snowy)
This low-level cloud deck is generally just gray and uniform. Not typically associated with severe weather.
An abrupt edge separates these from some of their non-rain-making cousins.


Storm clouds.
These are the anvil-shaped clouds that stretch from down near the surface to high up in the atmosphere above. Even higher than cirrus clouds!
These are our main focus here at WeatherNation and as a kid, the ones that got me the most excited!

There are many more clouds we didn’t even cover– each cooler than the last! (pun intended)
So get out there are start learning, because once you know what you’re looking at it’s a lot more fun!

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

ps. My favorite cloud is a pileus cap. (Like a lenticular but better)

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