Different types of clouds

Looking into the sky, we all wondered how to recognize the clouds. Nothing simpler, we will list for you the different types of clouds to know according to their appearance, altitude and depending on the weather. Cumulus, cirrus, cirro-stratus, cirro-cumulus, altocumulus, altostratus, nimbostratus, stratocumulus, stratus, cumulonimbus… How to recognize all these clouds ? Follow the guide, this is here if you have the passion for the cloud.

Article Plan

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  • What is a Cloud?
  • The aspect of clouds: poetry and science
  • Aspect of the cloud:
    • the main clouds to know Cirrus
    • The cirro-cumulus
    • The cirro-stratus
    • The altocumulus
    • The altostratus
    • The nimbostratus
    • The stratocumulus
    • The stratus
    • The cumulus
    • The cumulonimbus
  • Recognize clouds according to your location
  • Observing the sky with
  • clouds Clouds and beliefs around the world
  • Cloud in contemporary art

What is a cloud?

First of all, we will set for you the cloud. In the current world of weather, a cloud is a formation or visible mass in the sky. A cloud consists of water and sometimes ice crystals or aerosols. The cloud is suspended in the atmosphere and can have a very varied appearance, depending on the weather conditions surrounding its formation.

The appearance of a cloud therefore depends on its size (size), its nature, the light it receives and the particles of which it consists. A cloud of water is actually made up of millions of water droplets . These droplets of water comes from the phenomenon of condensation of water vapor, which is contained in the air, forms masses visible from afar in the sky.

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A cloud can be more or less loaded. For example, if the air is very hot, clouds can contain much more water vapour due to condensation in the air. Atmospheric pressure also affects the appearance of clouds. We help you recognize clouds thanks to their appearance, the altitude you are at and the weather conditions around you.

The aspect of clouds: poetry and science

The appearance of clouds has inspired many poets and writers, but also painters and photographers, filmmakers, musicians and other contemporary artists. Clouds fascinate by the fact that they seem to float in the sky.

In the children, the imagination is strongly stimulated by clouds. Indeed, we can imagine everything behind a cloud! An entire world can exist behind or inside a cloud. By definition, what is of the order of the impalpable and the inaccessible has always inspired artists.

So we find the cloud in writing, painting, in the imagination of the dream, in music, in art, in photography, in drawing, in cinema… The clouds carry strong symbols and have always been present in every civilization of this world. From ancient times to the present day , clouds have been studied and retain a part of mystery.

Clouds are formed in different stages, but what interests us here is essentially how they form to give their appearance so special. Here, by aspect, all the clouds you need to know to get out cloud names wherever you are.

Aspect of the cloud: the main clouds to know

Let ‘s go, we define the aspect of each cloud, to teach you how to recognize them as simply in the world.

The cirrus

With their very fibrous appearance, cirrus clouds are recognizable between 1000. Looks like long hair floating in the sky. They are typically found at about 10 km above sea level, more or less. We are talking about the upper-floor cloud.


Cirro-cumulus is a cloud that is often harbinger, with the participation of atmospheric pressure, of thunderstorms over the following days. The cirro cumulus is also located on the upper floor, between 5 km and 13 km above sea level.

Cirro-cumulus is recognized thanks to its small white balls juxtaposed. We often talk about sheep when we see this type of cloud in the sky.

The cirro-stratus

The cirro stratus is formed between 4500 and 12000 meters above sea level and recognizes itself because it is in reality a translucent veil that extends throughout the sky. This cloud veil can also be present in the sky partially.


The altocumulus is in formation on the middle stage of the sky, i.e. between 2 and 7 kilometers of altitude. Altocumuli are shoals of clouds that look like bullets and can spread out in the sky.

To hold them, do not forget that “cumulus” looks like “accumulated”: benches of white balls accumulated together and with each other in the sky.


An altostratus is a cloud that is not white but rather gray or grayish. It spreading throughout most of the sky and does not allow it to be easily crossed by the sun’s rays. This gives a gray layer of clouds , located between 2 and 7 km above sea level, that is, on the middle floor of the clouds in the sky.

Thin solar rays can pass through this grey sail of clouds.

The nimbostratus

The nimbostratus is a very dark cloud, neither white nor gray, but with a threatening attitude. The nimbostratus has a very imprecise form and is directly harbingers of precipitation. These clouds are low and dark gray . They form rather thick layers in the sky, and these are the clouds that we don’t like too much in general!

From the nimbostratus fall snow and rain .


Stratocumulus is somewhat more known than altostratus, for example. This type of cloud closely resembles the nimbostratus but it evolves and forms on the lower floor of the sky. This means that it is a very low cloud (between 0 and 2 kilometers of altitude), loaded and direct announciator of precipitation.

The stratus

The stratus is a low and gray cloud in general. From this type of cloud often emerge fog and low rainfall and precipitation.

The cumulus

Cumulus is one of the best-known clouds. Dense, with an often flat base, it is THE cloud par excellence , the one that children draw. The cumulus grows in height and keeps its base flat. When the weather is in the sun, the cumulus is very bright white.

Cumulus is found in the history of impressionist painting, in particular.

The cumulonimbus

Finally, the cumulonimbus is what is called a cloud thunderstorm harbinger. This type of clouds has a large vertical extension in the sky. This means that they can easily reach the tropopause. The upper part of these clouds is flat and smooth , and some sometimes even have a kind of hood.

The cumulonimbus consists of two types of clouds itself: the calvus cloud and the capillatus cloud.

Recognize clouds according to your location

In order to be able to recognize the clouds, you just need to proceed by eliminating it. The various most important criteria to observe are:

  • The position of the cloud in the sky (floor);
  • The appearance of the cloud: hair, veil, ball, big mass, etc.
  • The color of the cloud: white, gray, very dark…
  • The weather conditions of the day;
  • Your location;

Indeed, clouds are recognizable and sometimes predictable. If, for example, you observe rainfall clouds one day, you can be sure to see a few days later the formation and appearance of clouds warning of thunderstorms or very dark and carrying rain or snow.

Observe the sky through clouds

In the mountains, the guides are very observers of the sky and watch how clouds behave. This allows them to plan group outings , or, on the contrary, to cancel them.

Beyond the peak weather forecast we have today, clouds have always been reliable sources of weather forecasts for the coming days.

Mountain guides, sherpas and other seasoned hikers are not the only ones who “read the sky”. Aviators, lovers of paragliding, hang gliding or even kite are also very Observers from the sky. This allows them to make the right decisions at the right time and ensure everyone’s safety during an activity.

The shepherds are also very good and fine observers of the sky and the clouds. It is not uncommon in ancestral traditions, especially tales and legends, to find stories where clouds are fully integrated into the scenery.

Clouds and beliefs around the world

The clouds, even today, carry a great symbolic and spiritual power to which many people are sensitive. Especially in beliefs about angels, clouds play a prominent role.

It is not uncommon to want to see “signs” or shapes in the sky, through the clouds. This is a classic game that children love very much, in days of great sun! The world of clouds also joins that of dreams.

In ancient Greek times, the gods lived on Mount Olympus, represented by a place located in the heart of clouds, high in the sky and above human beings. Mount Olympus was a kingdom hidden from humans by these famous clouds. A great mystery has always surrounded the clouds and continues to feed many stories and the imagination of young and old.

The Cloud in Contemporary Art

In contemporary poetry and contemporary art, we also find the theme of the cloud. Take, for example, the Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde , who in his work managed to bring up clouds kept in place in a restricted space. Frozen and at the same time ephemeral, these artificial clouds exude an immense poetry that it would be a shame to deprive oneself.

An invisible wall of water vapor plays a role in this ambitious artistic installation. So the artist managed to create clouds by hundreds , and then “captured” one by photographing it. The smoke machine used by the artist served as the basis. How strangely to see an almost real cloud enclosed in a room, floating, wireless! The photographic work that flows from these clouds is to be discovered.

Do you also know how to recognize all the clouds of the sky?

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