Identifying clouds and their potential threats is key to having a keen aviator’s eye and to ensure that no hazards are inadvertently encountered.
All clouds are made up of basically the same thing: water droplets or ice crystals that float in the sky. But all clouds look a little different from each other, and these variations can often help us predict a shift in the weather
Here’s a list of some of the most common cloud types you might spot in the sky:
High Clouds (16500 - 45000 feet): There are 3 types of high clouds: cirrostratus, cirrocumulus, and cirrus.
Mid Level Clouds (6500 - 23000 feet): There are 3 types of medium clouds: altostratus and altocumulus.
Low Clouds (less than 6500 feet): There are 4 types of low clouds: stratus, stratocumulus, nimbostratus, and cumulus.
Cirrus Cloud: High level, white patches, filaments, or narrow bands of the cloud with a fibrous or silky appearance. Viewed from the surface, cirrus clouds appear thin and wispy because of their distance from the observer.
Cirrostratus Cloud: Cirrostratus clouds are thin, white clouds that cover the whole sky like a veil. These clouds are most frequently seen in winter and may cause a halo to appear around the sun or moon.
Cirrocumulus Cloud: High level, thin sheet or layer of cloud comprising regular arrangements of smaller ripples or lumps of cloud.
Mid Level Cloud
Altocumulus Cloud: A layer of patches of cloud composed of small lumps, heaps, or rolls of cloud, often arranged in waves or lines which may be joined to form a continuous layer.
Altostratus Cloud: Altostratus clouds are gray or blue-gray mid-level clouds composed of ice crystals and water droplets. The clouds usually cover the entire sky.
Nimbostratus Cloud: Nimbostratus clouds are dark, gray clouds that seem to fade into falling rain or snow. They are so thick that they often blot out the sunlight.
Cumulus Cloud: Cumulus clouds look like fluffy, white cotton balls in the sky. They are beautiful in sunsets, and their varying sizes and shapes can make them fun to observe!
Stratus Cloud: Stratus clouds often look like thin, white sheets covering the whole sky. Since they are so thin, they seldom produce much rain or snow. Sometimes, in the mountains or hills, these clouds appear to be fog.
Cumulonimbus Cloud: Cumulonimbus clouds grow on hot days when warm, wet air rises very high into the sky. From far away, they look like huge mountains or towers.
Stratocumulus Cloud: Stratocumulus clouds are patchy gray or white clouds that often have a dark honeycomb-like appearance.
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