What Are Different Types of Clouds?


According to the National Weather Service, common clouds that occur high in the atmosphere contain the ciro- prefix and include cirrus clouds, cirrostratus clouds and cirrocumulus clouds. Those that travel at a medium atmospheric altitude use the prefix alto-, and they include altostratus clouds and altocumulus clouds. Clouds that appear low in the atmosphere use either a strato- or cumulo- root, and they include stratocumulus clouds and nimbostratus clouds.

The National Weather Service explains that cirrus clouds are composed entirely of ice crystals, and they may precede a warm front. Cirrostratus clouds are similar but disperse light in a ring-shape pattern. Cirrocumulus clouds are lumpier than other high-level clouds.

At the medium level, altostratus clouds have a consistent texture and may indicate a coming warm front. Altocumulus clouds are heavier and usually appear in row formations.

Stratocumulus clouds appear lower in the atmosphere, usually preceding or following a front. Dense nimbostratus clouds are capable of producing light, steady snow or rain.

A cumulonimbus cloud is most often associated with storms due to its ability to produce heavy downpours, thunder and lightning. The cloud known as a cumulus congestus or towering cumulus can turn into a cumulonimbus cloud with sufficient updrafts.

Other types of clouds include: wall clouds, chelf clouds, fractus clouds, mammatus clouds, contrail clouds, fog and hole-punch clouds.