Types of clouds
Meteorology Nautical Science

10 Most Common Types of Clouds and their Meaning


Types of Clouds 

Their are mainly 3 types of clouds which will be further categorized on the basis of their height and appearance. 

1. High Clouds: These clouds are above the height of 20,000 FT (6 km).

Examples of high clouds are Cirrus (Ci), Cirro Cumulus (Cc), Cirro Stratus (Cs).

2. Medium Clouds: These clouds are between the height of 6,500 to 20,000.

Examples of medium clouds are Alto Cumulus (Ac), Alto Stratus (As), Nimbo Stratus (Ns).

3. Low Clouds: These clouds are upto a height of 6,500 FT.

Examples of low clouds are Stratus (St), Cumulus (Cu), Strato Cumulus (Sc), Cumulo Nimbus (Cb)

What are Clouds?

Cloud is a mass of minute water droplets, ice crystals or other particles suspended in the atmosphere. Clouds are the results of condensation in the atmosphere. They can be easily seen in the sky in different layers of atmosphere like troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere.

There are different types of clouds we will discuss them in this article.


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Types of Clouds on the Basis of their appearance

1. Cirrus: Threadlike or Streak, Fibrous,Light cloud.

2. Cumulus: Heap like, Accumulation, Tall, Flat base and rounded shape.

3. Stratus: Layer type, Flat (Horizontal), Uniform base.

4. Nimbus: Luminous, Grey in color, Known as rain clouds also.

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10 Types of Clouds on the Basis of their Form and Height

High Clouds

1. Cirrus (Ci)

types of clouds

Fibrous, light weight, threadlike or mostly white patches. These fibrous clouds are composed of tiny ice crystals. They do not produce weather. By seeing cirrus clouds you can tell the direction from where they are coming. Cirrus clouds are the sign of approaching warm front.

2. Cirrostratus (Cs)

Credits: wikimedia 

It is a very thin, milky, translucent cloud, made out of ice crystals. Often associated to halo phenomenon. It partly or totally covers the sky. Cirrostratus clouds are the sign of rain, these clouds come 12-24 hours before rain.

3. Cirrocumulus (Cc)

types of clouds

They are small, rounded puffs in shape usually occur at an altitude of 16,000 ft (5 km) to 39,000 ft (12 km). Appear in long rows and ripped elements or very small globular masses without shades. Cirrocumulus indicates fair, but cold weather. They may indicate an approaching hurricane.

Medium Clouds

4. Altocumulus (Ac)

Types of Clouds
Credits: Acabashi

These are in the shape of bundles, white in color with grey shades. Normally found in groups, they align in rows or sheets of clouds. When these clouds have some vertical extent they indicate instability of air. They are also known as hole punched clouds.

5. Altostratus (As)

Altostratus clouds over Hong Kong
Credits: wikimedia

Grey or blue in color, Highly dense, spread over a large area and opaque. They usually covers the sky, slightly allowing the sun to appear (like seeing through glass). Altrostratus clouds indicate the approach of a warm front and forms ahead of storms.

6. Nimbostratus (Ns)

Credits: wikimedia

These are dark grey in color, which produce constant precipitation (rain or snow). They are thick enough to hide the sun. These are actually multilevel clouds, forms from bottom to top. Severe weather producing nature. Not usually seen in tropics.

Low Clouds

7. Stratocumulus (Sc)

Stratocumulus clouds
Credits: Alana Sise

Rounded in shape, appear in series of globular masses usually joined together, Grey or white in color. These are one of the most common type of clouds appear in atmosphere, which form either ahead of or behind a frontal system. These clouds may result in very thick drizzle.

8. Stratus (St)

2014-03-10 08 47 44 Stratus clouds and virga in Elko, Nevada
Credits: Famartin 

Stratus means layer, white or grey in color, spread evenly in the sky, featureless layer of cloud covering large stretches. They are lowest level clouds, often resembling fog. These clouds are associated with rain, fog and drizzle. They are very thick that they obscures the sun.

9. Cumulus (Cu)

Types of clouds

white clouds with dark and flat base, vertical development resembles towers, having a cauliflower shape. They are usually seen in calm weather. when cumulus clouds grow vertical in tower they become cumulonimbus clouds. They indicates precipitation.

10. Cumulonimbus (Cb)

types of clouds

They have a large vertical extent (heaped in shape), upper part looks like anvil tops and the anvil usually point the direction of the storm is moving. They indicates violent weather (rain, snow, hail, lightning and tornadoes). The cumulonimbus always indicates a strong instability of air with appropriate convection or turbulence.


These are some most common types of clouds with their basic features. If you want to add more let us know in the comment section.

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