Different Cloud Types

2 May 2013

I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and I spend even more time staring out of my office window, so I should know more about clouds than I do. Right now there’s some dark grey fluffy ones, one looks like Concorde with spines, another looks like a cow giving birth. In between these there is lighter grey whispiness. What the ‘eck are these?

I’ve just been on the Met Office website (how bored am I today?) to try and identify the Concorde, which has now blown into a sausage with a jesters hat on. I am almost 30% sure what I’m looking at is Stratocumulus mixed in with some Stratus and above that some Nimbostratus. I can say what I like you’ll never know. But what does this mean for my bike ride later on today?
Stratocumulus are low level clumps of cloud that can be white or dark and have well defined bottoms (don’t we all) and from my window looks like a sausage with a jesters hat on, no, now it’s the Starship Enterprise being attacked by a Klingon Battlecruiser. The important fact to me is that the Stratocumulus can bring light rain which I can handle.
Stratus Clouds are fuzzy patches of grey and white, if you're lucky, that sometimes come down very low and cause mist and drizzle.

Again, being a Cumbrian, if drizzle was a problem I would never leave the house.
The bluey grey stuff above that is Nimbostratus clouds. They are a featureless layer of cloud that sits above the other two and could be responsible for continuous heavy rain.

Not too happy about that.

I’ve just checked the forecast for this afternoon and here it is:

It’s looking like the Nimbostratus is going to being doing its stuff. Look at the clouds on the weather forecast - well defined bottoms, my new found knowledge tells me they are Stratoscumulous.
Cumulus and CumulonimbusCumulus and Cumulonimbus
The cutest clouds are the Cumulus clouds. These are the fluffy cotton wool ones you see on a summer’s day. But don’t annoy them. If they start clumping together and ganging up on you, they could turn in to the dreaded Cumulonimbus.

That's Cumulonimbus on the left, looking quite nice.
These are the ones to watch, especially if you’re on the top of Scafell Pike. Cumulonimbus, to you and me, are thunder clouds. They are big and fat and very low to the ground but extend high into the sky like mountains or towers. If you see one of these it’s time to take cover. Torrential rain, hail, lightening, tornados – Cumulonimbus clouds are very talented but not very friendly.

There are loads more cloud formations, but I’d like to save that to impress you some other time, in the meantime I’m going to finish with some Latin, because I like to show off.

Cumulus – heap

Stratus – flattened

Nimbus – rain cloud

timidi mater non flet – A coward's mother does not weep

Footnote: It didn't rain on my way home so my cloud reading skills are rubbish and so is that forecast.

Ego vobis valedico

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

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