Cloud Formations and What They Mean

Abhijit Naik May 13, 2019
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You don't need Einstein's brain to identify cloud formations or understand the changes in weather which contribute to their formation; what you need is some interest in nature and the ability to interpret the changes in your surroundings.
Basically, clouds are indicators of weather conditions to follow, and being well-versed with the basics of cloud types, formation, etc., can help you predict weather with considerable ease.
Here are the details about the different types of clouds, their formation, and what they indicate when it comes to weather forecasting.

High-level Clouds

These are the ones which occur at an altitude of 18,000 feet or more. The three different types of clouds which fall in this category are cirrus clouds, cirrocumulus clouds, and cirrostratus clouds. Cirrus clouds, which are formed in the highest region of troposphere where it is extremely cold, are precursors of an approaching storm.
Cirrocumulus clouds indicate unsettled weather and cirrostratus clouds mark the beginning of a warm front. Generally, the formation of these clouds is considered a sign of precipitation that is likely to follow within 24 hours.

Mid-level Clouds

The two different types of clouds that fall in this category are: the altocumulus clouds and altostratus clouds, which form at an altitude of 6,500 - 18,000 feet. Both are indicators of a stormy weather that is likely to follow.
The grayish-white colored altocumulus clouds, which mostly appear in the morning, are indicators of violent thunderstorms, which are likely to occur in the afternoon. The grayish-blue altostratus clouds, on the other hand, indicate heavy storm with continuous rain or snowfall.

Low-level Clouds

These include stratocumulus clouds and stratus clouds, which form at an altitude of 6,500 feet or less. Stratocumulus clouds are indicators of intermittent weather. These puffy clouds produce light showers either just before rough weather or when the weather is clearing after heavy precipitation.
However, they do have the tendency of turning into nimbostratus clouds, which bring about heavy rains. On the other hand, stratus clouds are often associated with mist and drizzle. The fog that we often see in our surroundings is nothing, but stratus clouds that are extended all the way to the surface of the Earth.

Low to Mid-level Clouds

These are the clouds with their base right near the surface of the Earth and highest point extending to an altitude of 10,000 feet. The two types of clouds which fall in this category are the nimbostratus clouds and cumulus clouds.
While the dark gray nimbostratus clouds are known to cause heavy rain and snowfall, cumulus clouds appear when the weather is nice and calm. As cumulus clouds are signs of prevailing fair weather, they are also known as fair weather clouds. They do have the tendency of turning into gigantic cumulonimbus clouds, notorious for extreme weather conditions.

Vertical Clouds

Basically, there is only one type of vertically developing cloud, cumulonimbus clouds. These flat-topped clouds are quite tall and dense in nature. They generally occur at an altitude ranging between 500 - 13,000 feet in the atmosphere.
Cumulonimbus clouds are also known as thunderstorm clouds, as they are often associated with the formation of thunderstorms. Similarly, they are also known to indicate heavy rain and formation of tornadoes near the surface of the Earth.
Once you are well-versed with the basics of cloud types and formations, you won't have to rely on weather forecast to decide whether you should carry your rain-wear along when you step out of the house.
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