Know your Clouds

Clouds, those mystical shape changing structures up above our heads. They even have super powers: they fly, they hide Sun and Moon, they bring rain, they deform and even get vanished. With all these super powers they never fail to induce curiosity into our childish brain.

Though, they are poetically mystical, but scientifically not. Clouds are made up of droplets, frozen crystals and other solid particles. In our atmosphere, clouds can be found in the troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere.

The shape, structure and property of clouds differ with altitude. On the basics of this, clouds are classified into various types. Just like the Latin and common names in the biological world, clouds the same. The naming follows, universally adopted Luke Howard’s nomenclature. This nomenclature basically divides clouds into five physical forms. These physical forms are divided into ten genus types based on altitude. These genus types are divided into species and the species further subdivided into varieties.

Types of Clouds | Image: Valentin de Bruyn / Coton [CC BY-SA 3.0]

 With lots of classifications, let’s see some of the major cloud forms:

Cumulonimbus

Abbreviation: Cb

Altitude range: 400 – 13000 meters

Known for: Causing heavy rains, thunderstorms etc.

How it looks: Huge and tall

Cirrocumulus

Abbreviation: Cc

Altitude range: 6000 – 13000 meters

Known for: they are the sign of better weather

How it looks: small and move in patches

Cirrostratus

Abbreviation: Cs

Altitude range: 5500 – 13000 meters

Known for: sign for upcoming rain

How it looks: its soft shade the sun acting as a veil

Cirrus

Abbreviation: Ci

Altitude range: 5000 – 14000 meters

Known for: Causing natural phenomena like Halos

How it looks: thin, stretch clouds

Altocumulus

Abbreviation: Ac

Altitude range: 2000 – 6000 meters

Known for: signals the upcoming thunderstorms

How it looks: similar to cirrocumulus but larger

Altostratus

Abbreviation: As

Altitude range: 2000 – 6000 meters

Known for: increase in precipitation changes it to Nimbostratus

How it looks: In layers or sheets

Nimbostratus

Abbreviation:  Ns

Altitude range: Below 3000 meters

Known for: Bringing steady precipitation

How it looks: Dark, those rain bringing cloud

Cumulus

Abbreviation: Cu

Altitude range: Below 2000 meters

Known for: This form of cloud is also located in other planets like Mars and Jupiter

How it looks: like a cotton, puffy like

Stratocumulus

Abbreviation: Sc

Altitude range: below 2000 meters

Known for: shading earth from sun

How it looks: combination of stratus and cumulus

Stratus

Abbreviation: St

Altitude range: Below 2000 meters

Known for: That beautiful drizzles

How it looks: like horizontal layers

More detailed and infographic cloud stories will continue in the second part of this article.

This is a special article in the celebration of World Meteorological Day – 2019. This year’s theme is “The Sun, The Earth and The weather”

Article by M R Raghul  

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