Basic types of CloudsThis is a featured page

Basic types of Clouds - Aviation WikiIt is important to know what type of cloud you are flying into. Some clouds may have more turbulence than others. Some clouds may have more chance of icing than others. You get the idea. But many people don't have any idea what type of cloud it is, and that can be dangerous. Really, knowing the type of cloud is just the beginning of the knowledge important to fly. But it is the base upon which everything else is based, and is very important. This page will tell you types of clouds, qualities of each, and more. So read on, and if you're a member and you think something's missing, feel free to add it.

























Basic Clouds:

Cirrus Clouds: Cirrus clouds are those wispy clouds high up in the sky. Some people think they look like feathers, other people think they look like a cotton ball all stretched out. They are easy to mistake with cirrocumulus. The difference is that cirrocumulus develop upward, and cirrus don't. You probably will never encounter cirrus clouds, they are so high up they are made of ice crystals. They usually mean fair weather, and I've never heard of them making any precipitation.

Cumulus Clouds: These are the clouds we all drew in school. They are the very puffy clouds. They usually form a couple thousand feet up, but they can form up in the teens.A lot of broken or scattered small cumulus a hundred or so feet thinck usually means bumpy skies below, but it's usually less turbulent above. They grow from the unstability below. If a cumulus is building higher, you want to avoid them. They can cause some turbulence, even if they're not that thick. Cumulus are also suspects for icing in freezing conditions, especially if they're very thick. If a cumulus cloud causes rain (which would be a nimbocumulus or cumunimbus) it usually is hard and doesn't last long.

Stratus Clouds: Stratus clouds are those clouds that form in blanket-like layers. Just like cumulus, stratus clouds are suspects for icing in freezing conditions. Unlike cumulus, stratus clouds that cause rain (more properly called nimbostratus or stratonimbus) usually move slow and cause a slow steady rain for days. Stratus clouds usually form very low to the ground.

Note: If a cloud causes rain, nimbo or nimbus is added to the word.


More Complex Clouds:

Cirrocumulus Clouds: These clouds are like Cirrus clouds. That's why they are easily mistaken for cirrus. They look like cirrus, and they're way up there, like cirrus. They don't make precipitation, like cirrus. But there is one difference. Unlike cirrus, cirrocumulus develop upward.

Cirrostratus Clouds: Cirrostratus clouds are sort of a 50/50 between cirrus and stratus. They are similar to cirrus in the fact that they are way up in the sky, made of ice crystals, and don't make precipitation. But they are similar to stratus in the fact that they blanket the whole sky. Unlike stratus, though, cirrostratus clouds are very thin, and you can see right through them. They almost give a hazy look to the whole sky.

Altocumulus Clouds: Altocumulus clouds don't look like cirrus, and are commonly mistaken for cumulus. Like cirrus, they are high up and don't create precipitation. But they aren't wispy, featherlike clouds. They are the thin, white, clouds that look like they're a thin, bigger cloud broken all up. For a better idea look at the picture above. ( By the way, in the picture, the cloud labeled altocumulus is in the left-hand side. But the cloud in the top right-hand corner of the picture is altocumulus cloud, too.)

Cumulnimbus Clouds: These are basically cumulus clouds that create precipitation. But if you hear of a thunderstorm cloud, that's really a cumulnimbus cloud. Cumulnimbus clouds can cause quick hard rainshowers. If they're very big, they can cause hail. They are also the only clouds with thunderheads. These are definantly clouds to stay clear of. They can cause major turbulence, lightening, and more. If they're producing hail, it can hit you over 20 miles away. (See the hail page) Cumulnimbus clouds, like all cumulus, develop upward and can cause thunderstorms with tops reaching over 50,000 feet.

Altostratus Clouds: Altostratus clouds are basically stratus clouds that form higher up. They don't form near as high as any type of cirrus, but they can form around the middle altitudes.

Nimbostratus Clouds: These are stratus clouds that create precipitation. They're precipitation is usually steady and can go on for days.


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