What are the different types of clouds?

Expert Answers
besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

High level clouds are:

  1. Cirrus-These clouds form in the troposphere so it is very cold. They appear to be wispy and transparent.
  2. Cirrocumulus-These clouds have a cumuliform appearance.
  3. Cirrostratus-These clouds cover a very large area of the sky.
  4. Contrail-Contrails are due to aircraft engines that emit water vapor in to the sky.

Middle level clouds are:

  1. Altostratus-These clouds form when a large lifted air mass is condensed. They can bring rain and snow.
  2. Altocumulus-These clouds are not associated with a front but can bring rain.

Low level clouds:

  1. Stratocumulus-These clouds usually have a lumpy appearance and often follow a cold front. They can also bring rain.
  2. Stratus-This is a horizontal layer of clouds that bring drizzle.
  3. Nimbostratus-These clouds bring constant rain and low visibility.
  4. Cumulus-These clouds tower up into the sky and can form storm clouds.

These are just the basic types of clouds. There are many more.

dano7744 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clouds are classified according to height and form. A few examples are:

Low clouds: below 6,500 ft.

1. cumulonimbus-associated with thunder storms.

2. cumulus- dense, billowy clouds.

3. stratocumulus-soft gray clouds that form pathches or rolls.

4. stratus-low clouds that look like fog.

Middle clouds: 6,500-20,000 ft.

1. altostratus-stratified thin veils that produce light rain.

2. altocumulus-white to gray in color "sheepback" clouds.

High clouds: above 20,000 ft.

1. cirrocumulus-thin and white that appear as ripples or waves.

2. cirrostratus-thin white clouds that appear milky.

3. cirrus- the highest clouds, appear thin and delicate.

dollyy | Student

High Layered Clouds that form above 17,000 feet are:


  • Cirrus: Delicate white strands of ice crystals that often form, what is referred to as mares tails.
  • Cirrostratus: A veil of white cloudiness often covering the entire sky, causing halos around the Sun and the moon. This can be an indicator of an approaching storm.
  • Cirrocumulus: Small white patchy patterns like fish scales and referred to as Mackerel skies.

Mid-layered clouds that form between 6,000 to 17,000 feet are:


  • Altostratus: Drab gray clouds of water droplets that obscure the view of the Sun and moon. They have the potential to produce rain and snow.
  • Altocumulus: A darker, larger pattern of patchiness that may produce a shower.

Lower layered clouds that form below 6,000 feet are:


  • Stratus: A wispy cloud of fog that hangs a few hundred feet above the ground and often bring drizzle.
  • Stratocumulus: Dark gray clouds, often covering the entire sky, which do not bring rain. They form rounded wavelike bands that are broken by blue sky.
  • Nimbostratus: Low, dark, ragged rain clouds that often bring continuous rain, sleet, or snow.

The fourth common cloud types that form Vertically are:


  • Cumulus: Large, billowy cotton balls of clouds with dark bottoms and bright white tops that can reach 10,000 feet high. May produce brief showers.
  • Cumulonimbus: Towering thunderheads, dark on the bottom and white anvil-shaped tops that can extend to 50,000 feet. Often produces lightning and heavy precipitation, including hail. Occasionally produces tornadoes.

There are 27 types of clouds in all. There are four main types in all - cumulus, stratus, nimbus, and cirrus.

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