Types of clouds

Clouds can be a great source of information about what the weather will be like in the next few hours. Knowing how to understand them and differentiate their different types can be especially useful for fans of outdoor activities, but also for travelers who are going to take a plane or a boat or for a wide variety of commercial sectors, such as agriculture. Therefore, knowing the clouds a little better can be really useful.

Clouds: what are they and how do they form?

Despite their cotton-like appearance, clouds are clusters of water droplets suspended in the atmosphere , but which become visible when certain concentrations are reached.

Its formation occurs when warm updraft air traps water vapor and moisture in the atmosphere. At a certain height, this water vapor condenses due to the cold, forming tiny drops of water or ice crystals.

In the case of drops, they take a spherical shape and a size between 0.004 and 0.1 mm. Since they are in suspension, their erratic movement causes them to collide and group together, giving rise to the clouds that we see. When the right circumstances are met, the thickness of these droplets can increase, thus causing precipitation.

Cloud types – list

This is a list with the names of the main types of clouds :

Types of high clouds

  • cirrus
  • Cirrocúmulos
  • Cirrostratus

Middle cloud types

  • Altoestratos
  • Altocumulus
  • Nimbostratos

Low cloud types

  • Stratocumulus
  • Strata

Types of vertical clouds

  • Cumulus clouds
  • Cumulonimbos
Types of high clouds

High clouds are those that form in low and middle latitudes and at altitudes above 6,000 meters . At this height, the air is at a very low temperature and has very little humidity, so these clouds are mainly made up of ice crystals . They tend to be thin and intensely white in color.


Cirrus clouds are clouds that take the form of thin filaments, as if they were hair or fibers of some kind. They are exclusively made up of ice crystals. If they are seen in large areas and you can see how the wind moves them, it means that warmer airs are approaching with the possibility of precipitation in between 24 and 36 hours.


Cirrocumulus form a thick white blanket or blanket over the sky. Each of its small parts is totally white and does not make shadows. It is an unusual type of cloud to see, which is usually preceded by a notable change in the weather in less than 12 hours, usually by storms.


The cirrostratus or cirrostratus form an even more concentrated veil or tapestry, taking on the appearance of a pale, translucent veil. They tend to be of great extension, and a marked lunar or solar halo is always distinguished when their light passes through them. Warm fronts or moderate storms precede.

Middle cloud types

The middle clouds form at altitudes of between 2,000 and 7,000 meters . They are usually made up of water droplets , although if the temperature is low enough they may contain ice crystals.


These clouds form a distinctly gray blanket that tends to cover the entire sky in large areas. You can make out the sun or moon against some thin sections of the upper stratum, without completely covering them. They do not cast shadows on the ground.


They resemble cirrocumulus in their tapestry form with some regular pattern, but differ from them because altocumulus tend to have a darker part and a lighter part. They take on the appearance of small rolled masses. If they appear in the first hours of humid and warm days, they usually mean a storm for the last hours of the day.


The nimbostratus form a dense layer of dark and gray clouds, they are able to completely hide the sun and are characterized by bringing precipitation in the form of rain.

The low clouds are formed below 2,000m and only in colder climates may contain particles of snow or ice , is usual that consist entirely of water.


They form a layer of patches or rows of rounded and jumbled masses, revealing a blue sky between them. They are of various shades of gray and of considerable size and, furthermore, they rarely involve precipitation.


A low, gray mist darker than that of the Altostratus that does not descend to the ground. They generally do not precipitate beyond very light drizzles, although they usually do not do so at all.

To learn more about the clouds that can form snow and ice, we advise you to read these other posts on How snow and hail form and What is a snow storm and how it forms .

Types of vertical clouds

These clouds are very striking and easy to distinguish, since their base can be very close to the surface and they develop upwards, being able to exceed 10,000 meters in altitude. These are the two types of vertical clouds :

Cumulus clouds

They are one of the most typical clouds to draw, with rounded shapes like pieces of cotton separated from each other in the sky, with tips in the shape of a dome or tower. When their vertical development is small they imply good weather.


Clusters that grow very large can form cumulonimbus clouds. They are clouds with a dark base that can be found just over 500 meters from the ground, and with an upper part that exceeds altitudes of 10,000 meters. They are impressive and imposing, and contain water at the base and ice at the top. They can cause precipitation of all kinds.

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