Different Types of Clouds

By | May 20, 2018

Clouds are defined as aggregates of innumerable tiny water droplets, ice particles or a mixture of both in the air generally much above the ground surface.

Clouds are formed due to condensation of water vapor due to the uplifting of air known as adiabatic cooling.
Different types of clouds are generally classified on the basis of their form, general shape, structure, vertical extent and height. Based on the average height, clouds are classified into four types. they are:

  1. High-Level Clouds (Above 6 kms)
  2. Middle-Level Clouds (Between 3-6 kms)
  3. Low-Level Clouds (Below 3 kms) and
  4. Multi-layered Clouds (Rainy Clouds)

Cloud types
Image source: Astronomy Online

1. High-Level Clouds (Above 6 kms):
Cirrus clouds are feathery, wispy formations made up of very minute ice crystals. Cirrus clouds reveal the presence of moisture at great heights and may indicate an onset of bad weather.

Cirrostratus clouds are high altitude clouds made up of tiny ice crystals. Cirrostratus clouds have a thin-layered formation through which the sun’s rays pass, creating a halo like an effect. They indicate a rainy spell.

Cirrocumulus clouds are also high altitude clouds but these are formed when two layers of clouds move in directions opposite to each other. They also indicate unsettled weather.

2. Middle-Level Clouds (Between 3-6 kms):
Altocumulus Clouds are thick, fluffy, middle altitude clouds that are a patchy white and grey in colour. Though they look like cirrocumulus clouds. Altocumulus clouds indicate sunny spells.
Altostratus Clouds are clusters of bluish-grey clouds indicate that there may be rain head.

3. Low-Level Clouds (Below 3 kms):
Cumulus is thick low altitude clouds are usually puffy and have very distinct edges and a noticeable vertical development. They look like heaped up cotton and have interesting shapes. they indicate sunny weather.
These low altitude clouds are responsible for dull, gloomy, overcast days and they indicate rainy weather.

4. Multi-layered Clouds (Rainy Clouds):
Nimbostratus clouds are considered as low clouds, Nimbostratus clouds are actually multilayered clouds, as their vertical extent goes well into the middle cloud region and they often have taller cumulonimbus clouds embedded with them, found at a height up to 2000m. These dark grey rain or snow bearing clouds cover the sky so completely that one cannot see the sun. They indicate a long spell of heavy rain or snow.
Cumulonimbus clouds produce lightning, thunder, heavy rain, hail, strong winds and tornadoes. The tallest among all clouds, cumulonimbus clouds span all cloud layers and extend above 2000m. These clouds usually have large anvil-shaped tops, which form because of the stronger winds at the higher levels of the atmosphere.