Learn more and buy the 2015 Old Farmer's Almanac!

Classifying Clouds

PrintPrintEmailEmail
Your rating: None Average: 4.3 of 5 (12 votes)

By observing clouds, you can often predict the incoming weather.  Clouds have many characteristics and are classified by altitude and type.

 

HIGH CLOUDS

Bases start above 20,000 feet, on average

Cirrus: Thin, featherlike, crystal clouds.

Cirrocumulus: Thin clouds that appear as small “cotton patches.”

Cirrostratus: Thin white clouds that resemble veils.

MIDDLE CLOUDS

Bases start at between 6,500 and 20,000 feet

Altocumulus: Gray or white layer or patches of solid clouds with rounded shapes.

Altostratus: Grayish or bluish layer of clouds that can obscure the Sun.

LOW CLOUDS

Bases start below 6,500 feet

 

Stratus: Thin, gray, sheetlike clouds with low bases; may bring drizzle or snow.

Stratocumulus: Rounded cloud masses that form in a layer.

Nimbostratus: Dark, gray, shapeless cloud layers containing rain, snow, or ice pellets.

CLOUDS WITH VERTICAL DEVELOPMENT

Form at almost any altitude and can reach to more than 39,000 feet

Cumulus: Fair-weather clouds with flat bases and dome-shape tops.

Cumulonimbus: Large, dark, vertical clouds with bulging tops that bring showers, thunder, and lightning.

Related Articles

More Articles:

Comments

These pictures are great!

By Amy Nieskens

These pictures are great! They are so helpful to see when reading the cloud descriptions.

Did you know that the higher

By Catherine Boeckmann

Did you know that the higher the clouds, the finer the weather? If you spot high, wispy clouds, expect a nice day!

Post new comment

Before posting, please review all comments. Due to the volume of questions, Almanac editors can respond only occasionally, as time allows. We also welcome tips from our wonderful Almanac community!

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.