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!