Types of cloud

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CLOUD TYPES

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Most clouds are associated with weather . These clouds can be divided into groups mainly based on the height of the cloud's base above the Earth's surface. The following table provides information about cloud groups and any cloud classes associated with them. In addition, some clouds don't fall into the categories by height. These additional cloud groups are listed below the high, middle, and low cloud groups

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High-Level Clouds Cloud types include: cirrus and cirrostratus Mid-Level Clouds Cloud types include: altocumulus , altostratus Low-Level Clouds Cloud types include: nimbostratus and stratocumulus .

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Clouds with Vertical Development Cloud types include: fair weather cumulus and cumulonimbus . Other Cloud Types Cloud types include: contrails , billow clouds , mammatus , orographic and pileus clouds .

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Cirrus Clouds - thin and wispy The most common form of high-level clouds are thin and often wispy cirrus clouds. Typically found at heights greater than 20,000 feet (6,000 meters), cirrus clouds are composed of ice crystals that originate from the freezing of supercooled water droplets. Cirrus generally occur in fair weather and point in the direction of air movement at their elevation.

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Cirrus Clouds

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Cirrostratus Clouds -sheet-like and nearly transparent Cirrostratus are sheet-like, high-level clouds composed of ice crystals. Though cirrostratus can cover the entire sky and be up to several thousand feet thick, they are relatively transparent, as the sun or the moon can easily be seen through them. These high-level clouds typically form when a broad layer of air is lifted by large-scale convergence .

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Cirrostratus Clouds

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Altocumulus Clouds -parallel bands or rounded masses Altocumulus may appear as parallel bands (top photograph) or rounded masses (bottom photograph). Typically a portion of an altocumulus cloud is shaded, a characteristic which makes them distinguishable from the high-level cirrocumulus. Altocumulus clouds usually form by convection in an unstable layer aloft, which may result from the gradual lifting of air in advance of a cold front . The presence of altocumulus clouds on a warm and humid summer morning is commonly followed by thunderstorms later

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Altocumulus Clouds

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Altostratus Altostratus belong to the Middle Cloud group (2000-7000m up). An altostratus cloud usually covers the whole sky and has a gray or blue-gray appearance. The sun or moon may shine through an altostratus cloud, but will appear watery or fuzzy. An altostratus cloud usually forms ahead of storms with continuous rain or snow . Occasionally, rain will fall from an altostratus cloud. If the rain hits the ground, then the cloud becomes classified as a nimbostratus cloud.

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Altostratus Clouds

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Nimbostratus Clouds - dark, low-level clouds with precipitation Nimbostratus are dark, low-level clouds accompanied by light to moderately falling precipitation. Low clouds are primarily composed of water droplets since their bases generally lie below 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). However, when temperatures are cold enough, these clouds may also contain ice particles and snow.

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Nimbostratus Clouds

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Stratocumulus Clouds - low, lumpy layer of clouds Stratocumulus clouds generally appear as a low, lumpy layer of clouds that is sometimes accompanied by weak intensity precipitation. Stratocumulus vary in color from dark gray to light gray and may appear as rounded masses, rolls, etc., with breaks of clear sky in between.

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Stratocumulus Clouds

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Fair Weather Cumulus Clouds -puffy cotton balls floating in the sky Fair weather cumulus have the appearance of floating cotton and have a lifetime of 5-40 minutes. Known for their flat bases and distinct outlines, fair weather cumulus exhibit only slight vertical growth, with the cloud tops designating the limit of the rising air. Given suitable conditions, however, harmless fair weather cumulus can later develop into towering cumulonimbus clouds associated with powerful thunderstorms.

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Fair Weather Cumulus Clouds

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Fair weather cumulus are fueled by buoyant bubbles of air, or thermals , that rise upward from the earth's surface. As they rise, the water vapor within cools and condenses forming cloud droplets. Young fair weather cumulus have sharply defined edges and bases while the edges of older clouds appear more ragged, an artifact of cloud erosion. Evaporation along the cloud edges cools the surrounding air, making it heavier and producing sinking motion (or subsidence) outside the cloud.

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Cumulonimbus Clouds - reaching high into the atmosphere Cumulonimbus clouds (Cb) are much larger and more vertically developed than fair weather cumulus . They can exist as individual towers or form a line of towers called a squall line . Fueled by vigorous convective updrafts (sometimes in excess 50 knots), the tops of cumulonimbus clouds can easily reach 39,000 feet (12,000 meters) or higher

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Cumulonimbus Clouds

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Lower levels of cumulonimbus clouds consist mostly of water droplets while at higher elevations, where temperatures are well below 0 degrees Celsius, ice crystals dominate. Under favorable atmospheric conditions, harmless fair weather cumulus clouds can quickly develop into large cumulonimbus clouds associated with powerful thunderstorms known as supercells .

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