While clouds appear in limitless shapes and sizes they fall into some straightforward forms. Indigenous his Essay of the modifications of Clouds (1803) Luke Howard divided clouds into three categories; cirrus, cumulus and stratus.

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Cirro-formThe Latin native 'cirro' means curl that hair. Created of ice crystals, cirro-form clouds space whitish and hair-like. There space the high, wispy clouds to first appear in advance of a low-pressure area such together a mid-latitude storm device or a tropical system such together a hurricane.
Generally detached clouds, lock look favor white fluffy cotton balls. They display vertical movement or thermal uplift of air occurring in the atmosphere. They space usually thick in appearance with sharp outlines. The base of cumulus clouds are generally flat and also occurs at the altitude wherein the humidity in rising air condenses.
From the Latin word for 'layer' these clouds are usually wide and fairly wide spread appearing like a blanket. They an outcome from non-convective climbing air and also tend to happen along and also to the north of warmth fronts. The edge of strato-form clouds space diffuse.
Howard likewise designated a special rainy cloud classification which linked the three creates Cumulo + Cirro + Stratus. He dubbed this cloud, 'Nimbus', the Latin word for rain. The vast bulk of precipitation occurs from nimbo-form clouds and therefore these clouds have actually the biggest vertical height.

The elevation of Clouds

The traditional department between the Polar and also Temperate areas is the Arctic circle (66.5°N) in the north Hemisphere and the Antarctic one (66.5°S) in the southerly Hemisphere. The department between the Temperate and also Tropical regions are the Tropics of Cancer (23.5°N) in the northern Hemisphere and the Tropics of Capricorn (23.5°S) in the southern Hemisphere.

The actual division between these areas varies native day come day and season come season. Between the Polar and Temperate regions lies the jet stream in both hemispheres, while the Sub-Tropical Jet present divides the Temperate and also Tropical Regions.

One result of this cores of strong wind is the preferably altitude that the tropopause reduce in each an ar as one move from the equator come the poles. Generally, as the tropopause's height decreases, the elevations at which clouds occur likewise decreases.


The exception is for low clouds which room officially said to have actually cloud bases within the very first 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) of the surface ar in each region. Yet even the is not always the case.

The base of cumulus and also cumulonimbus clouds deserve to sometimes be greater than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). Throughout summertime, the basic of this convective clouds will be well in come the mid-level cloud selection in the non-mountainous locations of the southwest joined States.

Cumulus cloud bases have actually been observed approximately 9,000 feet (2,750 meters) over North main Texas and thunderstorms, with cloud bases indigenous 11,000 to 12,000 feet (3,350 to 3,650 meters), have emerged near mountain Angelo, Texas.

This wake up when, in spite of the dry lower level the the atmosphere, the environment in the mid-levels is relatively moist and also unstable. The dryness of the reduced level is such that parcels of air need to rise increase to two miles (3 km), and sometimes more, before the they cool come the point of condensation.

LevelPolar RegionTemperate RegionTropical RegionHigh CloudsMid CloudsLow Clouds
10,000-25,000 feet (3-8 km)16,500-45,000 Feet (5-14 km)20,000-60,000 feet (6-18 km)
6,500-13,000 feet (2-4 km)6,500-23,000 feet (2-7 km)6,500-25,000 feet (2-8 km)
Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)

Since the jet stream complies with the sun, the shifts toward the equator as winter progresses. Therefore, the polar an ar expands and the temperate region moves towards the equator. In summer, the Tropical an ar expands changing the temperate region toward the poles if the polar region shrinks.

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The department between these areas varies indigenous day come day and also season come season based upon locations of the jet and sub-tropical jet streams.

Learning Lesson: A 'Hole' most Clouds 1