The ten different types of clouds
Clouds play an essential role in the climate system and warn us of what lies ahead. Learn how to identify cloud types.
Clouds provide shade, store water, and distribute heat from the equator to the poles. Their mechanisms are still not entirely known, but their relevance to the earth's balance is unquestionable.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) created an International Cloud Atlas that recognizes ten types of clouds.
Clouds can appear at between 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) and 16,500 feet (5,029 meters).
The cloud names result from a combination of Latin prefixes and suffixes. Can you identify these clouds in your skies?
Huge cloud tower, sometimes with an anvil shape. Possible thunderstorm.
Isolated, puffy cloud with sharp outlines.
Grey-whitish low layer, sometimes with drizzle or snow grains. If Sun/Moon is visible, its outline is clear. It can occur in fragments.
Transparent milky or fibrous veil; casts shadow, produces halo.
Smooth, extensive layer; casts no shadow, even if Sun/Moon is recognizable as a blurred dot.
Dark rain cloud or bright snow cloud. Usually continuous rain, snow, or ice pellets.
Hooks, feathers, bands, or patches with silky shimmer.
Thin, pure white fields of small grains or ripples at a high level.
White/gray patches (turreted, lens-shaped, or balls of cotton), sheets, or structured layers with undulations or rolls.
Grey or whitish fields, rolls or bundles, with rounded edges, at a low level; regularly arranged elements.
Now, here's where low, middle, and high-level clouds begin to form: