All About Clouds

What are Clouds

A cloud is a large collection of very tiny droplets of water or ice crystals. The droplets are so small and light that they can float in the air.

 

How are clouds formed?

To begin, we must understand that warm air rises and cold air sinks.  Additionally, in order for a cloud to form we need two main ingredients (warm moist air and a cloud condensation nuclei (something for the water vapor to “cling” to)).  Cloud condensation nuclei are small particles typically, or 1/100th the size of a cloud droplet on which water vapor condenses.

As the sun heats up the surface of the earth, the air around the surface also warms.  Since warm air is lighter than cold air, it begins to rise.  As it rises, both the pressure and temperature drop causing water vapor to condense onto a condensation nuclei.  Eventually, enough moisture will condense out of the air to form a cloud.  If warm moist air is forced upwards very rapidly  (usually during an approaching frontal boundary), then very large cumulonimbus clouds can form and produce severe weather.

There are 27 different types of clouds.  They are divided into 3 categories (Low Level, Mid Level and Upper Level.  They are as follows:

 

LOW LEVEL CLOUDS (SFC – 6,500ft)

Low Cloud 1:

Fair Weather Cumulus

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Low Cloud 2:

Towering Cumulus

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Low Cloud 3:

Cumulonimbus (w/out anvil)

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 Low Cloud 4:

Stratocumulus (from the Spreading of Cumulus)

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Low Cloud 5:

Stratus

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Low Cloud 6:

Nimbostratus

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 Low Cloud 7: 

Fractocumulus/Fractostratus

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Low Cloud 8:

Cumulus mixed w/Stratocumulus

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Type 9:

Cumulonimbus (with anvil) (CB)

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MID LEVEL CLOUDS (6,500ft – 23,000ft)

Mid Cloud 1:

Altostratus (thin)

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Mid Cloud 2:

Altostratus (thick)

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Mid Cloud 3:

Altocumulus (thin)

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Mid Cloud 4:

Thin Altocumulus in patches

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Mid Cloud 5:

Thin Altocumulus in bands or layers

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Mid Cloud 6:

Altocumulus formed by spreading out of cumulus

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    Mid Cloud 7:

Double-layered Altocumulus

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Mid Cloud 8:

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Altocumulus Castellanus/Lenticular

Mid Cloud 9:

Altocumulus of a chaotic sky

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 UPPER LEVEL CLOUDS (ABOVE 23,000ft)

Upper Level Cloud 1:

Cirrus (filaments)

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Upper Level Cloud 2:

Cirrus (dense)

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Upper Level Cloud 3:

Cirrus w/Cumulonimbus (Anvil)

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Upper Level Cloud 4:

Cirrus thickening

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Upper Level Cloud 5:

Cirrus/Cirrostratus low in the sky

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Upper Level Cloud 6:

Cirrus/Cirrostratus high in the sky

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  Upper Level Cloud 7:

Cirrostratus covering the entire sky

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Upper Level Cloud 8:

Cirrostratus partially covering sky

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Upper Level Cloud 9:

Cirrocumulus

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