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In this lesson we will go over the different types of clouds and with what type of weather they are associated. You can also test your knowledge after with a quiz. On almost any given day, you may have noticed that there are several different types of clouds.

The clouds on a sunny day look a little different than those on rainy days or those during thunderstorms. The variety of clouds is caused by different conditions in the atmosphere, and they can indicate upcoming weather.

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Types

Low Clouds

Stratus

Stratus clouds are white or grey clouds that usually blanket the entire sky.

They can also look like fog that does not reach the ground. Stratus clouds usually don’t produce much rain, although they can produce light rain occasionally.

stratus clouds

Middle Clouds (6,000 – 20,000 ft.)

Altostratus

Higher up are grey, middle-level clouds. Altostratus clouds are composed of water droplets and sometimes look like rolling waves.

On warm summer morning, if these clouds are present, it often means thunderstorms may occur by late afternoon, though this isn’t as common as it is with Cumulus clouds.

altostratus

Altocumulus

These clouds align into rows and are caused by convection in the atmosphere. If these clouds are present in the morning, there is a good chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

High Clouds

Cirrus

Cirrus clouds are thin clouds blown by high winds into long streams. Sometimes the clouds can form streams thousands of miles long. They form above 20,000 feet (6,000 mi.

). In terms of weather, they tend to occur on pleasant, mild days.

cirrus

Vertical Clouds

Cumulus

Cumulus clouds usually have flat bottoms, but rise high above and look fluffy. The clouds sit lower than Cirrus clouds; the base of Cumulus clouds sits at about 330 ft (1,000 mi.) above the ground, thus also making them part of the ‘low clouds’ group. These clouds can grow very large and are the most common that produce thunderstorms.

cumulus

Cumulonimbus

These clouds form as water vapor is pushed upwards by strong air currents. The currents cause the clouds to be very tall, usually extending up to 20,000 ft.

in height. The tops of the clouds often form what looks like an anvil. This is caused by strong winds shearing the top of the cloud.

Facts

  • Clouds can form in minutes.
  • An average cloud can weigh over 5,000,000 pounds.
  • Dust is necessary for rain droplets to form
  • Clouds are formed by cooling water vapor in the atmosphere

Learning Outcome

When you have completed this lesson, you should feel self-assured to categorize and identify the various types of clouds.

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