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Blowin' in the Wind, Issue #017 Cloud pictures and classifications - April 1, 2005
March 31, 2005

Cloud pictures to demonstrate cloud development

People often ask about cloud pictures and types of clouds. If you are curious, the brief cloud information below lets you know about the common ones, and you can easily get some clouds wallpaper to see.

Some great pictures are shown on Google. Keep the new window open so you can refer to the photographs on that page as you read on.

We classify clouds by their height above ground. That's why the photos are grouped into low, mid or high. Some, "cumul....", are quite tall, with the top much higher than the base. The opposite kind of thing, horizontally spread out clouds, have names with "stratus" in it.

Note that some end in "nimbus", that means that rain or snow is falling out. Also, "Fractus" means broken, torn or fractured.

Here are the types of clouds.

Ordinary cumulus, like the kind you can see on a normal summer afternoon. Nothing too special here, see the picture labelled "low 1".

Towering cumulus, look like they might become thunderstorms, and they may. See low 2.

Cumulonimbus, a developing storm cloud. It's not quite there yet, but there is a lot of instability and vertical development here. Low 3. Low 9 shows one which is well formed, with all the parts of a standard thunderstorm, including the anvil and mammatus, named after its anatomical resemblance.

Stratocumulus, when vertical development suddenly becomes suppressed, or cumulus clouds get torn apart horizontally, you can get stratus fractus or stratocumulus in the pictures in low 4, low 5 and low 8.

Stratus, a layer of low cloud, often over water like the picture in low 6.

Stratus Fractus, cumulus fractus are low, lumpy or broken clouds that may indicate rain is coming, like the example in low 7.

Altostratus, thin wide spread cloud displayed in mid 1 and mid 2.

Altocumulus, this is one of my favourites, shows intricate patterns, like the ones in mid 3 to 9. Mid 4 shows a special one known as ACSL (Altocumulus standing lenticularis), found near rough terrain. Altocumulus castellanus, mid 8, can look like castle walls and indicate the presence of mid-level convection.

Cirrus, often compared to feathers or filaments, is the first of our very high clouds. High 1 to 4.

Cirrostratus, High 5 to 8, thin high spread out clouds. They make for great photographs.

Cirrocumulus, the kind that looks like a thin sheet of popcorn. See High 9.

Weather Articles

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