Cloud types

Different cloud types

Different cloud types

Following the official classification of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) there are 10 different cloud types. These can be divided further into subtypes. Here you find a description of the 10 cloud types.

Cirrus

Cirrus clouds

Cirrus clouds

Form

Thin fibres or threads, rarely also bundles; edges usually frayed by the high winds.

Description

Consist of ice crystals.

Interpretation

Fair weather clouds; when compressed it can be a sign of a warm front (precipitation).

Altitude:

8-12 km

Precipitation:

none

meteoblue description:
Cirrus clouds pictogram

Cirrocumulus

Cirrocumulus and cumulus clouds

Cirrocumulus and cumulus clouds

Form

Heap clouds; occur mostly in more or less expanded fields, which consist of small granular cloud parts, rarely also in small ripped to pieced bundles.

Description

Consist almost exclusively of ice crystals; strongly undercooled water drops will mostly freeze inside the cloud.

Interpretation

Indicate strong vertical movement in the altitude in which they form.

Altitude:

8-12 km

Precipitation:

none

meteoblue description:
Cirrus clouds pictogram
cirrocumulus pictogram

Cirrostratus

Cirrostratus with Cumulus in the foreground

Cirrostratus with Cumulus in the foreground

Form

Layer clouds. Occur either as a fibrous veil in which thin stripe can form, or as a veil-like fog; they can never completely cover the Sun. Under certain conditions, these clouds produce a "halo" around the Sun, caused by the refraction of the sunlight.

Description

Consist primarily of small ice particles.

Interpretation

Indicate the arrival of a warm front (with precipitation) within 1 to 2 days.

Altitude

8-12 km

Precipitation

none

meteoblue description
Cirrus clouds pictogram
cirrocumulus pictogram

Altocumulus

Altocumulus with Cumulus in the foreground

Altocumulus with Cumulus in the foreground

Form

Heap clouds; appear mostly as a big field which consists of many small single clouds.

Description

Consist almost exclusively of water droplets; only at low temperatures ice-crystals can appear.

Interpretation

Indicate horizontal aerial current and, in addition, vertical currents at some places in the middle cloud layer.

Altitude

2-8 km

Precipitation

none

meteoblue description
Altocumulus cloud pictogram
cirrocumulus pictogram

Altostratus

Altostratus clouds

Altostratus clouds

Form

Thread medium high layer clouds without contours.

Description

Composed of ice-crystals as well as water droplets.

Interpretation

Indicator for precipitation within the next few hours.

Altitude

2-8 km

Precipitation

rain or snow

meteoblue description
Altocumulus cloud pictogram (1)
Altocumulus cloud pictogram (2)
Altocumulus cloud pictogram (3)

Stratocumulus

Stratocumulus clouds

Stratocumulus clouds

Form

Shallow-layer clouds without fibres; appears in spots, fields or layers which aggregate into steadily arranged clouds, bales or rolls.

Description

Consist primarily of water droplets; these are the most frequent clouds; often have grey colouring, because the water droplets absorb a lot of light.

Interpretation

Generally annunciates an instability of the atmosphere. Takes place just before an occlusion between a cold front and a warm front.

Altitude

0,6-2 km

Precipitation

sometimes rain or snow

meteoblue description
Stratocumulus cloud pictogram (1)
Stratocumulus cloud pictogram (2)

Stratus

Stratus

Stratus

Form

Low-layer clouds, also described as high fog or above-ground fog; absolutely without structure.

Description

Consist of small water droplets; they can generate halos; often originate with high pressure and low air movement.

Interpretation

Generally indicates a rather quiet weather condition.

Altitude

0-2 km

Precipitation

often sprinkling of rain

meteoblue description
Stratus cloud pictogram

Cumulus

Small isolated cumulus

Small isolated cumulus

Form

Cumulus are thick heap clouds sharply separated from each other; the edges sometimes look tattered and change constantly.

Description

Consist almost exclusively of water droplets; ice-crystals can only appear at low temperatures; originate with locally restricted upward wind; for gliders and pilots, cumulus are an indicator for upward winds.

Interpretation

Nice weather clouds. If the clouds reach the medium levels of the atmosphere and is turning into a cumulonimbus cloud, light showers may arrive.

Altitude

0,6-2 km

Precipitation

seldom

meteoblue description
Cumulus cloud pictogram (1)
Stratocumulus cloud pictogram (1)
Cumulus cloud
Cumulus cloud pictogram (2)

Nimbostratus

Nimbostratus seen from below

Nimbostratus seen from below

Form

Very vast, dark grey layer; strong vertical expansion

Description

Consist of water droplets and/or ice-crystals; originate from the upward movement of moist air moving within a warm front.

Interpretation

Long-term rain/snow for several hours or days.

Altitude

0,6-12 km

Precipitation

rain or snow

meteoblue description
Nimbostratus cloud pictogram (1)
Nimbostratus cloud pictogram (2)
Nimbostratus cloud pictogram (3)
Nimbostratus cloud pictogram (4)
Nimbostratus clouds pictogram (5)
Nimbostratus clouds pictogram (6)

Cumulonimbus

Cumulonimbus cloud in formation

Cumulonimbus cloud in formation

Cumulonimbus cloud in formation

Cumulonimbus cloud in formation

Form

Very big heap clouds with a massive vertical expansion originating from a cumulus cloud.

Description

Consist of water droplets and ice-crystals which however primarily appear in the upper parts. Originate from a big cumulus cloud which, if it contains enough humidity and elevation impulses, expands in altitude. Later, the upper part of the cloud still expands, and give the so-called "anvil" cloud.

Interpretation

Cumulonimbus precipitation falls in the form of rain, hail or snow, thunderstorms are often also present; a full-grown cloud can take up up to 100 million tons of water, hence, violent showers and hail can fall. Moreover, violent hoists which can reach a speed from up to 120 km/h are to be calculated on with cumulonimbus. Within the cloud, there is also strong turbulences, so that they can themselves become dangerous for big airplanes and should therefore be flown around.

Altitude

0,6-12 km

Precipitation

strong precipitation, often with thunderstorm

meteoblue description
Cumulonimbus clouds pictogram (1)
Cumulonimbus clouds pictogram (2)
Cumulonimbus clouds pictogram (3)

Here you can see the forecast pictocasts for 3 places where you can find frequent thunderstorms - and thus frequent clouds. Compare the meteoblue representation of the cloud types with the forecast. Can you already have a good idea of the weather in Kinshasa, Manaus or Djakarta? Do you also see which clouds mainly cause the precipitation?

Pictocast 3h, 5 days - Kinshasa (-4.33°N / 15.32°E)

Pictocast 3h, 5 days - Kinshasa (-4.33°N / 15.32°E)

Pictocast 3h, 5 days - Manaus (-3.11°N / -60.03°E)

Pictocast 3h, 5 days - Manaus (-3.11°N / -60.03°E)

Pictocast 3h, 5 days - Djakarta (-6.17°N / 106.83°E)

Pictocast 3h, 5 days - Djakarta (-6.17°N / 106.83°E)