On those wonderfully lazy days, lying in a hammock gazing up at the beautiful blue skies, do you ever wonder about the clouds? What are they called and what do they mean? How many types of clouds are there?
I wondered, too, so I went to the historic The Old Farmer’s Almanac for information. Yes, it is still alive and well.
Clouds fall into three different categories based on their height in the atmosphere: high, middle, and low. The height and shape define the type of cloud. Clouds have been used for eons as an indicator of upcoming weather.
Types of clouds
High level clouds
High clouds are literally high. They are the ones 20,000 feet and over.
- Cirrus clouds are high-altitude clouds that are thin and wispy. They are usually white and often indicate that a change is on its way.
- Cirrocumulus clouds are high-altitude clouds that are composed of small white or gray patches or ripples that resemble cotton patches. They are often referred to as “sheepback” clouds because they resemble the wool of a sheep. They often predict fair but cold weather. In tropical areas they can indicate hurricane potential.
- Cirrostratus clouds are thin white clouds that tend to cover the sky. They are most common in the winter. Usually rain or snow will come within 24 hours.
Middle level clouds
These clouds are between 6,500 and 20,000 feet.
- Altocumulus Clouds: These are mid-level clouds that are usually white or gray and have a puffy rippled appearance. They are made of liquid but usually don’t indicate rain. Weather is fair and nice.
- Altostratus Clouds: These clouds usually cover the entire sky and are bluish or gray. Look for continuous snow or rain.
Low level clouds
These types of clouds start below 6,500 feet and can even be seen below high hills and mountain tops.
- Stratus Clouds: These are low-lying thin clouds that are usually gray and can cover the entire sky. They can bring light rain or drizzle but usually are just gloomy.
- Stratocumulus Clouds: These are low-level clouds that are usually gray and dark. They form in a layer and are often a sign of a stormy weather change.
- Nimbostratus Clouds: These are dark, gray layered clouds that are made with rain, snow or ice pellets and are thick enough to block the sun. Expect continuous rain or snow.
- Cumulus Clouds: These are large, fluffy clouds that are often associated with fair weather. However, they can also grow into thunderstorms.
- Cumulonimbus Clouds: These are towering clouds that can reach high into the atmosphere. They are often associated with thunderstorms, heavy rain, lightning, and even hail.
And for those who don’t care what they are called or what the weather may be tomorrow, it is enjoyable to look at the different shapes. One of our favorite childhood games on lazy summer days was lying in the grass and seeing animals and people in the clouds. What can you find in the ever-changing wonderful shape of clouds?
My favorite, and the most ominous, is mammatocumulus!
I have a book titled “Instant weather Forecasting” by Alan Watts. It describes the book this way. “A 24-color photograph guide to weather forecasting from the clouds, for use by farmers, fishermen, yachtsmen, golfers, holiday makers (???), and anyone to whom the weather in the near future is of vital importance”. No mention of RV’ers. Its copyright is 1968. I guess RV’ing wasn’t the big deal it is today. Nevertheless, clouds don’t change and this info is as good today as it was ‘back then’.