When I was little I would lie on my trampoline and watch all the different types of clouds float in the sky. At the time, I didn’t know that they had scientific names. All I really cared about was watching them change shapes. However, all the different types of clouds I would watch have specific names, and they are each slightly different.
High-level clouds are types of clouds that are formed at 20,000 feet or above. Because they are formed so high up, they are composed of ice crystals. High level clouds are wispy and feathery. There are two main types of high level clouds, and they each look a little different. Cirro stratus clouds are veil like clouds, and cirro cumulus clouds are layered clouds that line up in rows.
Mid-level clouds are formed between 6,500 feet and 20,000 feet, and, as a result, they are made of water droplets, ice crystals, or a combination of the two. Like high-level clouds, there are two main types of mid-level clouds. Altostratus clouds are flat and uniform. They don’t produce very much precipitation, but they can indicate a possible rain or snow shower. The other mid-level clouds are the alto cumulus clouds, which are heap-like clouds that align themselves in rows.
As their name suggests, low-level clouds are formed lower in the atmosphere. Specifically, low-level clouds are formed at 6,500 feet or less. Because these clouds are lower in the atmosphere, they are usually composed of water droplets. However, when it is cold enough they can be composed of snow or ice crystals. Stratus clouds are one type of low-level clouds, and they are uniform and flat. Cumulus clouds are another type of low level clouds, and they are large clouds that are vertically very tall and can be quite puffy.
Wall clouds are a specific type of cloud that is formed when there is an updraft, which increases cloud formation at the base of a cloud and creates a wall appearance. These clouds can indicate a rain-free thunderstorm. They can also indicate a tornado, especially when there is a lot of air movement. Obviously, wall clouds are clouds you should pay attention to.
Shelf clouds are low, horizontal clouds that look like a shelf. They can have an imposing appearance, which is appropriate considering they can indicate storms. These types of clouds are associated with thunderstorms. Often, if shelf clouds are present during a storm, there will be very strong winds.
Mammatus clouds are a type of cumulonimbus cloud. They have a droopy, pouch-like appearance that makes them look like a mass of cotton balls. Mammatus clouds don’t often produce severe weather, but they are often seen near a thunderstorm. Therefore, while they don’t produce storms, they are a good indicator of storms.
Hole-punch clouds are perhaps one of the more unique types of clouds. They are formed when the water temperature in a cloud is below freezing, but the water is not yet frozen. When sections of the water start to freeze, a rounded hole can form in the cloud. These clouds can literally look like they had a hole punched out of them.
Gazing at the clouds is so peaceful and relaxing. Certainly, it is not important to know the names of the clouds when you are cloud gazing. However, it is fun to be able to name them. Did you know there were so many different types of clouds?
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