Cirrus Cirrostratus Cirrocumulus Altocumulus Altostratus
Stratocumulus Stratus Nimbostratus Cumulus Cumulonimbus
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Cumulonimbus mamma Cumulonimbus mamma Cumulonimbus arcus


Cloud families and other cloud pictures/appearances

In meteorology we divide clouds in 4 clouds families, which are in different heights of the troposphere: High level clouds (altitudes of 5-13 km), medium level clouds (2-7 km), low level clouds (0-2 km) and clouds with large vertical extending (0-13 km).

These clouds families are divided in 10 cloud genus:

High level clouds at heights of 5-13 km
name abbr. example meaning
Cirrus Ci

Fibrous, threadlike, white feather clouds of ice crystals, whose form resembles hair curls.

Cirrostratus Cs

Milky, translucent cloud veil of ice crystals, which sometimes causes halo appearances around moon and sun.

Cirrocumulus Cc Fleecy cloud; Cloud banks of small, white flakes.
Medium level clouds at heights of 2-7 km
name abbr. example meaning
Altocumulus Ac Grey cloud bundles, sheds or rollers, compound like rough fleecy cloud, which are often arranged in banks.
Altostratus As Dense, gray layer cloud, often evenly and opaquely, which lets the sun shine through only a little.
Low level clouds at heights of 0-2 km
name abbr. example meaning
Stratocumulus Sc Cloud plaices, rollers or banks compound dark gray layer cloud.
Stratus St Evenly grey, low layer cloud, which causes fog or fine precipitation and is sometimes frazzled.
Clouds with large vertical extending at heights of 0-13 km
name abbr. example meaning
Cumulus Cu

Heap cloud with flat basis in the middle or lower level, whose vertical development reminds of the form of towers, cauliflower or cotton.

Cumulonimbus Cb In the middle or lower level developing thundercloud, which mostly up-rises into the upper level.
Nimbostratus Ns Rain cloud. Grey, dark layer cloud, indistinct outlines.
Other cloud pictures and appearances
name example meaning
other cloud photos These photos are not assigned to individual cloud families, because they e.g. show a chaotic sky with many different cloud types or undefinite photos.
other appearances Appearances, which fit into no other classifications.

Cloud species, subspecies and special forms

To each cloud family there are certain species, subspecies and special forms, which are to describe the appearance of the cloud families nearer. By clicking on the names you get to the pictures of the clouds, which are assigned to this species, subspecies or special forms.

cloud species
name abbr. meaning cloud families
calvus cal bald, smoothly Cb
capillatus cap haired, frayed, fibrously Cb
castellanus cas turrets-like Ci, Cc, Ac, Sc
congestus con huge, towered Cu
fibratus fib fibrously Ci, Cs
floccus flo flaked puffy Ci, Cc, Ac
fractus fra frazzled St, Cu
humilis hum low Cu
lenticularis len lense-shaped, almond-shaped Cc, Ac, Sc
mediocris med moderately Cu
nebulosus neb fog, veil-like Cs, St
spissatus spi dense Ci
stratiformis str layer wise Cc, Ac, Sc
uncinus unc hooked, comma-shaped Ci
cloud subspecies
name abbr. meaning cloud families
duplicatus du double and multilevel Ci, Cs, Ac, As, Sc
intortus in interlaced Ci
lacunosus la perforated (round frayed holes) Cc, Ac, seldom Sc
opacus op not shining through, darkly Ac, As, Sc, St
perlucidus pe transparent (by small gaps) Ac, Sc
radiatus ra radially, parallel bands and strips Ci, Ac, As, Sc, Cu
translucidus tr translucently Ac, As, Sc, St
undulatus un wavelike Cc, Cs, Ac, As, Sc, St
vertebratus ve skeleton-like, fishbone-like Ci
special forms
name abbr. meaning cloud families
arcus arc with gust collar Cb, seldom Cu
incus inc with anvil Cb
mamma mam sac-like, wart-like excrescences at the bottom side of the cloud Ci, Cc, Ac, As, Sc, Cb
pannus pan with frazzles As, Ns, Cu, Cb
pileus pil with cap Cu, Cb
praecipitatio pra with precipitation As, Ns, Sc, St, Cu, Cb
tuba tub with funnel cloud or tornado Cb, seldom Cu
velum vel with veil Cu, Cb
virga vir with drop strips Cc, Ac, As, Ns, Sc, Cu, Cb

Additionally the development of a cloud family can be described from other cloud families. If a new cloud family is developed, the designation of the mother cloud is attached with a “genitus”. Thus if a Cumulonimbus develops from a Cumulus, this cloud is designated as Cumulonimbus cumulogenitus (Cb cugen).

If the new cloud family did not develop yet, but the development goes there, the designation of the current cloud family is attached with a “mutatus”. Thus if the development of a Stratus goes to a Stratocumulus, this cloud is designated as Stratus stratocumulomutatus (St scmut).

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