Clouds

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Different types of clouds

The highest clouds in the atmosphere are cirrocumulus, cirrus, and cirrostratus. Cumulonimbus clouds can also grow to be very high. Mid-level clouds include altocumulus and altostratus clouds. The lowest clouds in the atmosphere are stratus, cumulus, and stratocumulus clouds.

Clouds.png

High Clouds (HC):

Cirrus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 16,500-45,000 ft. (5029.2-13716 m)/(5030-14000 m)
  • Location: Worldwide
  • Precipitation: None that reaches ground
  • Composition: Ice crystals
  • Formation: Fall streaks of ice crystals in upper troposphere winds

Cirrocumulus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 16,500-45,000 ft.. (5029.2-13716 m)/(5030=14000 m)
  • Location: Worldwide
  • Precipitation: None that reaches ground
  • Composition: Ice crystals
  • Formation: Cloudlets formed by choppy winds and high moisture levels in upper troposphere

Cirrostratus

  • Typical Altitude: 20,000-42,000 ft. (6096­-12801.6 m)/(6100-13000 m)
  • Location: Worldwide
  • Precipitation: None
  • Composition: Ice crystals
  • Formation: Spreading and joining of cirrus clouds

Medium Clouds (MC):

Altocumulus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 6,500-18,000 ft. (1981.2-5486.4 m)/(2000-5500 m)
  • Location: Worldwide
  • Precipitation: Very occasional light rain
  • Composition: Mostly liquid water, may also contain ice crystals
  • Formation: Mid-level atmospheric disturbances and wave propagation (from e.g. – mountain)

Altostratus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 6,500-16,500 ft. (1981.2-5029.2 m)/(2000-5030 m)
  • Location: Worldwide, common in middle latitudes
  • Precipitation: Occasional light rain, snow
  • Composition: Both liquid water, and ice crystals
  • Formation: Usually formed from the thickening and lowering of a cirrostratus cloud on its way to becoming a nimbostratus cloud

Nimbostratus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 2,000-18,000 ft. (609.6-5486.4 m)/(610-5500 m)
  • Location: Worldwide, common in middle latitudes
  • Precipitation: Moderate to heavy rain or snow, which is generally steady and prolonged
  • Composition: Liquid water, raindrops snowflakes and ice crystals
  • Formation: Usually formed from the thickening and lowering of a altostratus cloud

Low Clouds (LC):

Stratocumulus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 2.000-6,500 ft. (609.6-1981.2 m)/(610-2000 m)
  • Location: Worldwide – very common
  • Precipitation: Occasional light rain, snow
  • Composition: Liquid water
  • Formation: Spreading and joining of cumulus clouds below a temperature inversion, wind turbulence in a stratus layer

Stratus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 0-6,500 ft. (0- 1981.2 m)/(0-2000 m)
  • Location: Worldwide, but especially common around coasts and mountains
  • Precipitation: No more than light drizzle
  • Composition: Liquid water
  • Formation: Advective or radiative cooling

Cumulus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 2,000-3,000 ft. (609.6- 914.4 m)/(610-920 m)
  • Location: Worldwide (except in Antarctica, where it’s too cold)
  • Precipitation: Generally none, except for brief showers from congestus
  • Composition: Liquid water
  • Formation: Thermal convection currents

Cumulonimbus Clouds

  • Typical Altitude: 2,000-45,000 ft.. (609.6-13716 m)/(610-14000 m)
  • Location: Common in tropics and temperate regions, rare at poles
  • Precipitation: Heavy downpours, hail
  • Composition: Liquid water throughout, ice crystals at the top
  • Formation: Upwardly mobile cumulus congestus clouds (thermals)

More about clouds

How do clouds form?

Clouds are made of water droplets or ice crystals that are so small and light they are able to stay in the air.

How does the water and ice that make up clouds get into the sky?

The water or ice that make up clouds travels into the sky within air as water vapor, the gas form of water. The vapor becomes small water droplets or ice crystals and a cloud is formed. It's easier for water vapor to condense into water droplets when it has a particle to condense upon.

Video: All about clouds

Video: Make your own cloud