When you look up at the sky what do you see? Lovely white cotton puffs that move slowly above us? Do you ever wonder why they are there? Why do they occur?
Clouds are classified into ten separate types. The names used for the clouds are based on several factors: the location (region) of the cloud, the altitude of the cloud, the shape of the cloud, and whether the cloud is producing precipitation.
In this paper, I attempt to unveil the mysteries of cloud formation, how to identify and name the different types of clouds, and why they are so useful in predicting the weather.
In the early 1800’s, Luke Howard, known as the father of meteorology, classified the terms for types of clouds. Cumulus, Latin for “heap” describes heaped, lumpy clouds; Stratus, Latin for “layer” because it’s like a blanket layering the sky; Cirrus, Latin for “wispy curly hair”, used to name clouds that looks like curling locks of hair; and Nimbus, Latin for “Rain” to describe low, gray rain clouds (Luke Howard - A Man with his Head in the Clouds?, 2007).
Clouds can form for several reasons: convection, caused by heated air close to the earth’s surface; when warm air comes into contact with a cold surface like water; when warm air masses collide raising it to a higher altitude; or when a cooled air mass is forced to rise due to a hill or mountain (Climate and Clouds, n.d.)
Howard’s classification system was expanded by Abercromby and Hildebrandsson in 1887, who further classified clouds by height above ground as well as by appearance (Ahrens, Condensation & Clouds, p. 98). Using the middle-latitude region as a point of reference, the following are the four major cloud groups and their types:
High clouds occur above 23,000 feet. Because temperatures are so cold at this height, these clouds are mostly composed of ice crystals and have a fairly distinct appearance. The boundaries of ice clouds tend to be more diffuse, or...