When look upon the sky we can see many clouds of different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the question arises in mind how these clouds are formed and how many types are there of the clouds? To learn about different cloud typed we must pay attention to its shape and size.

What Are The Cloud Types

The speed of the ascending air plays an important role in the formation of types of clouds. Formation of clouds can be classified as high, medium, low and vertical. In this article, we will discuss the types and characteristics of the clouds, so to know more, read the article till the end.

Clouds Classification

At first you should know that the clouds are classified as:

Clouds Classification

  • Stratus: Usually these clouds and fog are generated when it has been cold out and then warmer, wet air blows in. They spread uniformly across the sky and usually there is no specific shape.
  • Cumulus: These clouds form in the strong currents of ascending air. The exterior of the base is usually flat and the top is of the form of a cotton ball.

Cloud Types By Shape

By shape the clouds are classified as:

Low Clouds

Let us discuss first, the low clouds types and its characteristics:

Low Clouds


These clouds look like a uniform layer of dark grey color with a varying degree of opacity. They are typically known as rain clouds in the summer and spring and also as clouds of snow in the winter.


These clouds have wide and wavy shapes similar to elongated cylinders and these can generate large cloud relays. These clouds have large areas with different tones of grey color. The relay of stratocumulus clouds brings rain, except when they turn into nimbostratus.


By appearance they have a grey fog bank and do not have a consistent shape. They reflect areas with variations of opaqueness and different tones of grey color. Stratus clouds remain in the sky all the day, during the fall and the winter season giving the sky a gloomy look.

Also, during the summer and spring season, they appear at the dawn and disappear later, reflecting a good weather.

Medium Clouds

Next, let us discuss about the medium sized cloud:

Medium Clouds


The altocumulus is a cloud cape of great horizontal extent which is composed of separate clouds, which may conceal the entire sky. It comprises the ice crystal and water droplets, even at very low temperatures.


An altostratus is a wrap of blue or grey clouds, with an even layer of striped, fibrous appearance. They cause the rainfall or snow, that is usually continuous, but not very extreme.


These are rain clouds with an even layer of large horizontal shape and average vertical shape and they can cover the whole sky and utterly conceal the sun giving a depressed look. They also includes raindrops and depending on the vertical development and the time span of the year, they may also include ice crystals.

High Clouds

Now we will discuss the high clouds types and their characteristics.

High Clouds


These are the dispersed clouds that are white in color with fragile filaments. Also they can be present in narrow strips that are white in color. Cirrus clouds in the upper atmosphere indicate the presence of moisture and they also reveal the arrival of a storm.

  • Maximum altitude: 10 -11 km or 6.3 to 6.9 mi.


A relay or bank of white clouds without any shade, consists of very small components in the form of grains, waves, etc. These are so small that the components have an apparent diameter of less than one degree. These clouds reveal atmospheric fluctuation and can also indicate an approaching storm or tornado.

  • Maximum altitude: 9-10 km or 5.6 to 6.3 mi.


This is an opaque thin layer of cloud, which can have a fibrous or a smooth look, partially or completely covering the sky. They do not move quickly and most commonly produce a halo phenomenon. Their presence can reflect the arrival of a warm front or a storm.

  • Maximum altitude: 9-11 km or 5.6 to 6.9 mi.


A group of grey or blue clouds partially or completely covering the sky with the areas thin enough to reveal the sun at least moderately. It is also composed of cold ice crystals and droplets.

  • Maximum altitude: 8-9 km or 4.5 to 5.6 mi.


A bank, or layer of white or grey cloud, usually with shading, fluffy, composed of plates rounded objects or rolls in looks and sometimes separated or joined together. They form what is known as the cobbled sky. These clouds show atmospheric fluctuations or storms and rain.

  • Maximum altitude: 7-9 km or 4.4 to 5.6 mi.

Clouds With A Vertical Shape

While looking at sky, have you ever noticed the clouds who have vertical instead of horizontal shape, here are given their types and the characteristics:

Clouds With A Vertical Shape


These clouds are large and comprise a massive appearance and when they are between the observer and the sun, they seem grey.

They consist of a horizontal base and on the top they have a vertical hump like tower with an appearance, exactly similar to a huge cauliflower. The clumps correspond to a fine weather with a little humidity and a little movement of air.

Note: The clumps can become quite large to generate storm and heavy down pours in the event of high humidity and strong updraft.


Just like cumulus they have a large and massive appearance but they give the impression of mountain cliffs whose tops are like a large mushroom.

Different shades of grey and shy blue can be observed in these clouds. At the top part of these clouds the ice crystals can also be present. These clouds typically generate intense storm with hail.

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