List of Cloud Types

List Of Cloud Types

Clouds are formed in Earth's atmosphere when water evaporates into vapor from oceans, lakes, ponds, and even streams and rivers; or by evapotranspiration over moist areas of Earth's land surface. The vapor rises up into colder areas of the atmosphere due to convective, orographic, or frontal lifting. The water vapor attaches itself to condensation nuclei which could be anything from dust to microscopic particles of salt and debris. Once the vapor has been cooled to saturation, the cloud becomes visible. All weather-producing clouds form in the troposphere, the lowest major layer of the atmosphere. However very small amounts of water vapor can be found higher up in the stratosphere and mesosphere and may condense into very thin clouds if the air temperatures are sufficiently cold. One branch of meteorology is focused on the study of nephology or cloud physics.

Tropospheric clouds are divided into physical categories with names based upon Latin root words that indicate physical structure and process of formation. Clouds of the cirriform category are generally thin and occur mostly in the form of filaments. Two other basic categories are stratiform with clouds that are mostly sheet-like in structure, and cumuliform that appear heaped, rolled, or rippled. Two additional categories derived from the cumuliform group are stratocumuliform which are cumuliform with stratiform characteristics (rolled or rippled), and cumulonimbiform, towering cumuliform clouds often with complex structures that include cirriform tops and multiple accessory clouds.

In the troposphere, ten genus types are derived by cross-classifying the physical categories into families defined by altitude range; high, middle, low, and vertical (with low to middle cloud base). The last of these can be subdivided into two sub-families or groups to distinguish between moderate and towering vertical types. Most cloud genera are divided into species, varieties, or both, based on specific physical characteristics of the clouds.

Cirriform category clouds are only found in the high-altitude family and therefore constitute a single genus cirrus. High stratiform and stratocumuliform types carry the prefix cirro- which yield the genus names cirrostratus and cirrocumulus. Clouds of the middle-altitude family have the prefix alto- (altostratus and altocumulus) to distinguish them from the high clouds. Strato- is dropped from high and middle stratocumuliform genus names to avoid double-prefixing. Low altitude stratiform, stratocumuliform, and cumuliform genera (stratus, stratocumulus, and small cumulus) carry no height-related prefixes.

The family of vertical clouds includes thick stratiform, cumuliform, and cumulonimbiform genera, all of which can produce precipitation of significant intensity. Within this family, the group of moderate vertical clouds comprise nimbostratus and cumulus mediocris that form in the low or middle altitude range. These genus types also have no height-related prefixes, but its stratiform genus carries the prefix nimbo- to denote its ability to produce widespread precipitation. The towering vertical group has no stratiform types, but rather comprises the genus cumulonimbus, and the species cumulus congestus, a towering variant of the genus cumulus whose other species belong to the group of moderate vertical clouds.

The essentials of the modern nomenclature system for tropospheric clouds were proposed by Luke Howard, a British manufacturing chemist and an amateur meteorologist with broad interests in science, in an 1802 presentation to the Askesian Society. Since 1890, clouds have been classified and illustrated in cloud atlases.

Clouds that form above the troposphere have a generally cirriform structure, but are not given Latin names based on that characteristic. Polar stratospheric clouds form at very high altitudes in polar regions of the stratosphere. Those that show mother-of-pearl colors are given the name nacreous. Both these and non-nacreous types are classified alpha-numerically according to their physical state and chemical makeup. Polar mesospheric clouds are the highest in the atmosphere and are given the Latin name noctilucent which refers to their illumination during deep twilight. They are sub-classified alpha-numerically according to specific details of their cirriform physical structure.

Mesospheric, stratospheric, and tropospheric classes are listed on this page in descending order of altitude range. Within the troposphere, families of non-vertical clouds are also listed in descending order of altitude. The genus types within each family are arranged in descending order of average cloud base height. Their constituent species, varieties, and supplementary features are arranged in approximate order of frequency of occurrence. Vertical cloud groups and their constituent genera and species are listed in ascending order of average altitude of cloud tops. Their varieties and supplementary features are arranged in order of approximate frequency of occurrence.

Read more about List Of Cloud Types:  Alphabetical List WMO Tropospheric Species, Alphabetical List of WMO and Other Tropospheric Storm Associated Genera, Species, Varieties, and Sup

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