Identifying The Different Types Of Storm Clouds
We see clouds all the time, but have you ever really thought about them? What makes clouds? Why don't they fall down? How are different types of clouds class. Cirrus clouds are wispy, thin, and have the highest bases of the 3 major cloud types (high clouds, middle clouds, and lower clouds). Cirrus, in Latin, refers to a curly lock of hair or ringlet. If you look at a cirrus cloud, you’ll see they look like flowing strands of hair.
Among the many different cloud types, three are responsible for most precipitation that falls to Earth: stratus, cumulus and nimbus. These clouds are capable of producing both rain and snow, often by combining with one another in hybrid typea. While some are almost exclusively associated with specific weather events such as thunderstorms, the type of precipitation that falls from a cloud is ultimately dependent upon temperature, humidity and air pressure. All clouds are made of moisture, and regardless of the type of cloud, thousands of tiny water droplets must condense around microscopic particles cloudds dust or smoke in order to gain enough density and fall as precipitation.
If atmospheric temperatures near the Earth's surface are at or below freezing, this precipitation falls as snow. Alternatively, a phenomenon known as the Bergeron-Findeisen process causes ice crystals to actually form within the cloud itself, which then melt and fall as rain the closer they get to the Earth's surface.
Cloud types receive names based on their position in the atmosphere, their overall shape and the weather with which they are associated. Nimbus, for example, means "rain-bearing" in Latin, and is added to cloud names as a prefix or suffix when they produce precipitation of any kind. Nimbostratus clouds, for example, are typically thick, low clouds that form a dense bank and yield steady snow or rain. Stratus clouds are low to mid-level clouds that develop into horizontal, flat formations.
Stratus is from the Latin meaning "layer," and stratus clouds can appear dark and dense or white and puffy. Storm fronts are often preceded or followed by stratus cloud formations carrying precipitation as rain or xlouds. Because temperatures are warmer closer to Earth and cooler higher up in the atmosphere, tje stratus clouds generally bring rain while tpyes stratus clouds are associated with snow.
Cumulus clouds are dense and puffy vertical cloud formations that extend as high as 15, meters 50, feet into the atmosphere. Although cumulus clouds are common on sunny, fair-weather days, they earn the moniker of thunderheads because tyeps their tendency to produce thunderstorms. A cumulus cloud becomes a cumulonimbus cloud capable of severe thunderstorms when sufficient heat, updraft and moisture combine in the cloud to produce lightning, thunder and rypes rains. Taylor Echolls is an thr writer whose expertise includes health, environmental and LGBT journalism.
He has written for the "Valley Citizen" newspaper, where his work won first- and second-place awards in sports and outdoor features from the Ae Press Club. Echolls holds a B.
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Very low stratiform clouds that touch the Earth's surface are given the common names, fog and mist, which are not included with the Latin nomenclature of clouds that form aloft in the troposphere. Above the troposphere, stratospheric and mesospheric clouds have their own classifications with common names for the major types and alpha-numeric. Cirrocumulus clouds are much smaller than most other types of clouds, and they are sometimes called cloudlets. They are found at high altitudes and are made of ice crystals. They often are arranged in parallel rows. They are one of the rarer types of clouds and usually don’t last long. Cirrostratus. Image source: aivas14/Flickr. Height: High. May 02, · Names of specific types of clouds are created by combining the name of the cloud’s shape with the name of the cloud’s height. Cirros (high) or Cirro can be used with cumulus (heap, puffy) to indicate a cirrocumulus or high, puffy cloud. It can also be used with stratus (flat, layered) as in cirrostratus to indicate a high, flat or layered.
The list of cloud types groups the main genera as high cirrus, cirro- , middle alto- , multi-level nimbostratus, cumulus, cumulonimbus , and low stratus, strato- according to the altitude level or levels at which each cloud is normally found. Small cumulus are commonly grouped with the low clouds because they do not show significant vertical extent.
Of the multi-level genus-types, those with the greatest convective activity are often grouped separately as towering vertical. The genus types all have Latin names. The genera are also grouped into five physical forms. These are, in approximate ascending order of instability or convective activity: stratiform sheets; cirriform wisps and patches; stratocumuliform patches, rolls, and ripples; cumuliform heaps, and cumulonimbiform towers that often have complex structures.
Most genera are divided into species with Latin names, some of which are common to more than one genus. Most genera and species can be subdivided into varieties , also with Latin names, some of which are common to more than one genus or species.
The essentials of the modern nomenclature system for tropospheric clouds were proposed by Luke Howard , a British manufacturing chemist and an amateur meteorologist with broad interests in science , in an presentation to the Askesian Society. Very low stratiform clouds that touch the Earth's surface are given the common names, fog and mist, which are not included with the Latin nomenclature of clouds that form aloft in the troposphere.
Above the troposphere, stratospheric and mesospheric clouds have their own classifications with common names for the major types and alpha-numeric nomenclature for the subtypes. They are characterized by altitude as very high level polar stratospheric and extreme level polar mesospheric.
Three of the five physical forms in the troposphere are also seen at these higher levels, stratiform, cirriform, and stratocumuliform, although the tops of very large cumulonimbiform clouds can penetrate the lower stratosphere. In section two of this page Classification of major types , height ranges are sorted in approximate descending order of altitude expressed in general terms. On the cross-classification table, forms and genus types including some genus sub-types are shown from left to right in approximate ascending order of instability.
In sections three to five, terrestrial clouds are listed in descending order of the altitude range of each atmospheric layer in which clouds can form:. In section six, the cloud types in the general lists and the mother clouds in the applicable classification table are sorted in alphabetical order except where noted. The species table shows these types sorted from left to right in approximate ascending order of the convective instability of each species.
The table for supplementary features has them arranged in approximate descending order of frequency of occurrence. In section seven, extraterrestrial clouds can be found in the atmospheres of other planets in our solar system and beyond. The planets with clouds are listed not numbered in order of their distance from the sun, and the clouds on each planet are in approximate descending order of altitude. The table that follows is very broad in scope and draws from several methods of classification, both formal and informal, used in different levels of the homosphere by a number of authorities.
Homospheric types are cross-classified as a whole by form and level to derive the ten tropospheric genera, the fog and mist that forms at surface level, and several additional major types above the troposphere. The cumulus genus includes four species as defined by vertical size and structure.
It should therefore be seen as an illustration of how the various cloud types are related to each other at all altitudes from surface-level to the "edge of space", rather than as a strict classification per se. Clouds that form in the mesosphere have a generally cirriform structure, but are not given Latin names based on that characteristic. Polar mesospheric clouds are the highest in the atmosphere and are given the Latin name noctilucent which refers to their illumination during deep twilight.
They are sub-classified alpha-numerically according to specific details of their cirriform physical structure. Noctilucent clouds are thin clouds that come in a variety of forms based from about 80 to 85 kilometres ,—, ft and occasionally seen in deep twilight after sunset and before sunrise.
Polar stratospheric clouds form at very high altitudes in polar regions of the stratosphere. Those that show mother-of-pearl colors are given the name nacreous. Tropospheric clouds are divided into physical forms defined by structure, and levels defined by altitude range. These divisions are cross-classified to produce ten basic genus-types. High clouds form in the highest and coldest region of the troposphere from about 5 to 12 km 16, to 40, ft in temperate latitudes.
Cirriform clouds tend to be wispy and are mostly transparent or translucent. Isolated cirrus do not bring rain ; however, large amounts of cirrus can indicate an approaching storm system eventually followed by fair weather. Abbreviation: Cc. High-level stratocumuliform clouds of the genus cirrocumulus form when moist air at high tropospheric altitude reaches saturation, creating ice crystals or supercooled water droplets. Limited convective instability at the cloud level gives the cloud a rolled or rippled appearance.
Despite the lack of a strato- prefix, layered cirrocumulus is physically a high stratocumuliform genus. Abbreviation: Cs . Clouds of the genus cirrostratus consist of mostly continuous, wide sheets of cloud that covers a large area of the sky.
It is formed when convectively stable moist air cools to saturation at high altitude, forming ice crystals. Middle cloud forms from 2 to 7 km 6,—23, ft in temperate latitudes, and may be composed of water droplets or ice crystals depending on the temperature profile at that altitude range. Abbreviation: Ac . Mid-level stratocumuliform clouds of the genus altocumulus are not always associated with a weather front but can still bring precipitation, usually in the form of virga which does not reach the ground.
Layered forms of altocumulus are generally an indicator of limited convective instability, and are therefore mainly stratocumuliform in structure.
Abbreviation: As . Stratiform clouds of the genus altostratus form when a large convectively stable airmass is lifted to condensation in the middle level of the troposphere, usually along a frontal system. Altostratus can bring light rain or snow. If the precipitation becomes continuous, it may thicken into nimbostratus which can bring precipitation of moderate to heavy intensity. Clouds with upward-growing vertical development usually form below 2 kilometres 6, ft ,  but can be based as high as 2.
Abbreviation: Cb . Clouds of the genus cumulonimbus have very dark gray to nearly black flat bases and very high tops that can penetrate the tropopause. They develop from cumulus when the airmass is convectively highly unstable. Abbreviations: Cu con cumulus congestus or Tcu towering cumulus . Abbreviation: Ns  V Clouds of the genus nimbostratus tend to bring constant precipitation and low visibility.
This cloud type normally forms above 2 kilometres 6, ft  from altostratus cloud but tends to thicken into the lower levels during the occurrence of precipitation. The top of a nimbostratus deck is usually in the middle level of the troposphere.
Abbreviation: Cu . Moderate vertical cumulus is the product of free convective airmass instability. Continued upward growth suggests showers later in the day. Low cloud forms from near surface to ca. Abbreviation: Sc . Clouds of the genus stratocumulus are lumpy, often forming in slightly unstable air, and they can produce very light rain or drizzle. These are fair weather cumuliform clouds of limited convection that do not grow vertically.
The vertical height from base to top is generally less than the width of the cloud base. They appear similar to stratocumulus but the elements are generally more detached and less wide at the base. Abbreviation: St . Clouds of the genus stratus form in low horizontal layers having a ragged or uniform base. Ragged stratus often forms in precipitation while more uniform stratus forms in maritime or other moist stable air mass conditions.
The latter often produces drizzle. Stratus that touches the Earth's surface is given the common name, fog , rather than a Latin name that applies only to clouds that form and remain aloft in the troposphere.
The division of genus types into species is as shown in the following table. The genus types including some cumulus sub-types are arranged from top to bottom in the left column in approximate descending order of average overall altitude range.
These ordinal instability numbers appear in each box where a particular genus has a particular species. The following table shows the cloud varieties arranged across the top of the chart from left to right in approximate descending order of frequency of appearance. The genus types and some sub-types associated with each variety are sorted in the left column from top to bottom in approximate descending order of average overall altitude range.
Where applicable, the genera and varieties are cross-classified to show the species normally associated with each combination of genus and variety. The exceptions comprise the following: Altostratus that have varieties but no species so the applicable boxes are marked without specific species names; cumulus congestus, a species that has its own altitude characteristic but no varieties; cumulonimbus that have species but no varieties, and nimbostratus that has no species or varieties.
The boxes for genus and species combinations that have no varieties are left blank. The supplementary features are associated with particular genera as follows.
They are sorted from left to right in approximate decreasing order of frequency of occurrence for each of three categories. The genus types and some sub-types are arranged from top to bottom in approximate descending order of average overall altitude range.
Each box is marked where a particular genus or sub-type has a particular supplementary feature. The possible combinations of genera and mother clouds can be seen in this table. The genitus and mutatus clouds are each sorted from left to right in alphabetical order. Each box is marked where a particular genus or sub-type has a particular genitus or mutatus mother cloud. Thick overcast clouds of sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide in three main layers at altitudes of 45 to 65 km that obscure the planet 's surface and can produce virga.
Wave clouds with clear gaps through which lower stratiform layers may be seen. Clouds resembling several terrestrial types can be seen over Mars and are believed to be composed of water - ice. Noctilucent clouds are known to form near the poles at altitudes similar to or higher than the same type of clouds over Earth. Wave-cloud resembling stratocumulus, especially as a polar cap cloud over the winter pole which is mostly composed of suspended frozen carbon dioxide.
Cloud decks in parallel latitudinal bands at and below the tropopause alternatingly composed of ammonia crystals and ammonium hydrosulfate. Bands of cloud resembling cirrus located mainly in the highest of three main layers that cover Jupiter. Convective clouds in the lowest layer that are capable of producing thunderstorms and may be composed at least partly of water droplets.
Clouds layers made mostly of methane gas. Lower-based convective clouds that can produce thunderstorms.