Clouds: Those Objects in the Sky Tell an Important Story

Remember that cloud that looked like a dragon or had the texture of cotton candy? Have you ever wondered what types of clouds they were? Each type of cloud is made by a certain weather condition. By observing the clouds in the sky, you can understand current weather and predict future weather.

One way you can categorize clouds is by what weather they signify. For example, cirrus clouds are thin and delicate and look like strands of hair blowing in the wind. They are a sign of good weather. Altocumulus clouds are small, puffy gray or white rolls placed in rows. They signify precipitation, or rain, if they are found together with altostratus clouds. Another cloud that actually rarely brings rain is the stratocumulus cloud which looks like large, puffy grey or white rolls. And finally, the pretty white cumulus clouds that spread across the sky and look like cotton are a sign of good weather—until they grow taller on top and become cumulonimbus clouds, that is.

There are just as many clouds that predict bad weather as those that predict good weather. For example, a cirrostratus cloud forms a white veil over the sky and makes a halo over the Sun. It is known to bring rain within 12 hours of forming. Nimbostratus clouds are thick, dark, and gray layers that cover the sky and Sun completely. They bring rain or snow that can last from hours to a whole day. In contrast, stratus clouds are low-hanging gray clouds that sometimes form a fog at ground level. They can be accompanied with drizzle, light rain, ice crystals, or snow grains. In comparison, Cirrocumulus clouds resemble small, white cotton balls clustered together that give the sky a wrinkled look. They are a sign of rain the following day. Also, altostratus clouds form a heavier veil over the sky than the cirrostratus clouds do. They are a sign of incoming showers.

Lastly, the worst of them all, the cumulonimbus cloud: these have a dark, scary-looking base and rise high up into the sky. They are full of air currents that continually rise and fall. They produce thunderstorms, heavy rain or snow showers, hail, violent winds, and tornadoes. The danger of cumulonimbus clouds was demonstrated in 1959. During a storm in this fateful year, a pilot in distress parachuted into a cumulonimbus cloud. It tossed him around for an hour before he managed to land.

In 2006, Jane Wiggins, a citizen of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, captured the undulatus asperatus cloud for the first time on camera. Undulatus means “wavy” and asperatus means “agitated” or “roughed.” It wasn’t until 2009 that scientists officially recognized the undulatus asperatus as a cloud formation. This cloud could ultimately become the first addition to the International Cloud Atlas of the World Meteorological Organization since 1951.

There are so many different types of clouds with various significances that resemble interesting objects and shapes. Clouds make up a big part of our climate, which affects all of us.

[Sources: Scholastic Atlas of Weather ; ]