Clouds can be classified into a number of different types. Read on to get information on the basic types of clouds.

Different Types Of Clouds

Clouds, amongst the most beautiful creations of nature, are the result of the moisture in the atmosphere reaching dewpoint, in the presence of condensation nuclei in the troposphere. Often considered to be of a single kind, clouds can be differentiated on the basis of a number of parameters, like the local conditions of turbulence, uplift, etc. Apart from that, clouds also organize in distinct patterns, a result of atmospheric processes, thus making their classification all the more easier. In the following lines, we have provided information on the basic types of clouds in the sky.
Different Types of Clouds
High-level Clouds
There are basically two types of high-level clouds - namely Cirrus clouds and Contrail clouds.
Cirrus Clouds
Cirrus clouds have been seen to form at a height of more than 23,000 feet (6,000 m). They are mainly present in the cold region of the troposphere. Owing to the height, the water in the atmosphere freezes and the clouds start comprising of ice crystals. Cirrus clouds are likely to be quite flimsy and are, more often than not, pretty transparent. When witnessed in isolation, such clouds are harmless. However, when seen in large amounts, they can serve as an indication of an approaching storm. Cirrus clouds can be of a number of types, including:
  • Crrus Castellanus (Series of dense cirrus clouds, in lumps, connected by a thinner base)
  • Cirrus Duplicatus (Series of dense cirrus clouds, at different atmospheric layers, connected at one or more points)
  • Cirrus Fibratus (Long, fibrous and curved cirrus clouds, with ‘mare's tail’ appearance)
  • Cirrus Floccus (Cirrus clouds, looking rounded on top and ragged at end)
  • Cirrus Intortus (Cirrus clouds, with unevenly curved or tangled filaments)
  • Cirrus Kelvin-helmholtz (Slender, horizontal & cirriform spiral, indicating severe turbulence)
  • Cirrus Radiatus (Cirrus clouds, displaying major horizontal banding)
  • Cirrus Spissatus (Thick cirrus clouds that look grayish when you see in the direction of the sun)
  • cirrus uncinus (Almost like Cirrus Fibratus, but more curled at the ends)
  • Cirrus Vertebratus (Cirrus clouds, in curved horizontal strips)
  • Cirrus with Mammatus (Cirrus clouds, with bubble-like bulge on underside) 
Contrail Clouds (Cirrus Aviaticus)
The second one of the two high-level clouds comprises of the contrail clouds. They are formed from the water vapors emitted by aircraft engines into the atmosphere, which later freeze to form ice crystals. These crystals later form trails, known as condensation trails (contrails) or Cirrus Aviaticus.
Medium-level Clouds
Medium level clouds include three types, Altostratus clouds, Altocumulus clouds and Nimbostratus clouds.
Altostratus Clouds
Altostratus clouds are amongst the ones that usually bring rain or snow. They are formed from the condensation of the large lifted air mass. This, in turn, leads to the building up of a frontal system, resulting in Altostratus clouds. These clouds can be divided into:
  • Altostratus Duplicatus
  • Altostratus Lenticularis
  • Altostratus Mammatus
  • Altostratus Opacus
  • Altostratus Praecipitatio
  • Altostratus Radiatus
  • Altostratus Translucidus
  • Altostratus Undulatus
Altocumulus Clouds
Altocumulus clouds are also associated with bringing rain or snow. However, they usually do not form a frontal system, like the Altostratus clouds. Altocumulus clouds can be further classified into:
  • Altocumulus Castellanus
  • Altocumulus Duplicatus
  • Altocumulus Floccus
  • Altocumulus Lacunosus
  • Altocumulus Lenticularis
  • Altocumulus Mackerel Sky
  • Altocumulus Opacus
  • Altocumulus Perlucidus
  • Altocumulus Radiatus
  • Altocumulus Stratiformis
  • Altocumulus Translucidus
  • Altocumulus Undulatus
  • Altocumulus Virga 
Nimbostratus Clouds
The third of the middle-level clouds, Nimbostratus clouds have been seen to have a low visibility. These types of clouds, though, have been associated with bringing constant precipitation. Nimbostratus clouds are of the following types:
  • Nimbostratus Floccus
  • Nimbostratus Opacus
  • Nimbostratus Pannus
  • Nimbostratus Praecipitatio
  • Nimbostratus Virga 
Low-Level Clouds
Low-level clouds include Stratocumulus clouds, Stratus clouds and Cumulus clouds
Stratocumulus Clouds
Stratocumulus clouds can be described as lumpy, layered clouds. They often follow a cold front and can lead to the occurrence of rain or drizzle. The following types of stratocumulus clouds are there:
  • Stratocumulus Castellanus
  • Stratocumulus Duplicatus
  • Stratocumulus Floccus
  • Stratocumulus Lacunosus
  • Stratocumulus Lenticularis
  • Stratocumulus Mammatus
  • Stratocumulus Opacus
  • Stratocumulus Perlucidus
  • Stratocumulus Praecipitatio
  • Stratocumulus Radiatus
  • Stratocumulus Translucidus
  • Stratocumulus Undulatus 
Stratus Clouds
Stratus clouds are horizontal clouds that seem to having layers. Such clouds boast of a uniform base, which is usually linked with extensive precipitation or ocean air and frequently produces drizzle. Stratus clouds include:
  • Stratus Fractus
  • Fractonimbus
  • Stratus Lenticularis
  • Stratus Nebulosus
  • Stratus Opacus
  • Stratus Praecipitatio
  • Stratus Translucidus
  • Stratus Undulatus 
Cumulus Clouds
Often known as fair weather clouds, cumulus clouds can easily turn into more storm-condition clouds. A continued upward growth of such clouds can be taken to mean showers, later in the day. Cirrus clouds can be of the following types:
  • Arcus (including roll and shelf clouds) (Horizontal cloud formation, associated with the leading edge of thunderstorm outflow.
  • Cumulus Congestus (large and tall cumulus clouds)
  • Cumulus Fractus (Frayed tatters of cumulus clouds)
  • Cumulus Humilis (Cumulus clouds, with more width than height)
  • Cumulus Mediocris (Cumulus clouds, slightly taller than cumulus humilis)
  • Cumulus Castellanus (Cumulus clouds, with tall tower-like structures, obtruding upwards)
  • Cumulus Praecipitatio (Cumulus clouds, with ground-reaching rain)
  • Cumulus Radiatus (Cumulus clouds, set in parallel lines)
  • Orographic (Cumulus clouds formed by air rising at windward slopes of hills and mountains)
  • Pannus (Mass of fractus clouds, below cumulus cloud)
  • Pileus (Small cap-like cloud, seen over parent cumulonimbus cloud)
  • Tuba (Cumulus clouds, with column hanging from the bottom) 
Vertically Developed Clouds
The fourth category of clouds, vertically developed clouds include only Cumulonimbus clouds.
Cumulonimbus clouds are the ones that are responsible for storms and rain, or showers. They include: 
  • Capillatus (Cumulonimbus clouds, with cirriform top)
  • Calvus (Cumulonimbus clouds, with puffy rounded top)
  • Incus (Cumulonimbus clouds, with flat anvil-like top)
  • Pileus (Small cap-like cloud over parent cumulonimbus cloud)
  • Spissatus
  • Mammatus (Cumulonimbus clouds, with bubble-like flanges on underside)
  • Arcus (including roll and shelf clouds) (Low, horizontal clouds related with the leading edge of thunderstorm outflow)
  • Scud
  • Praecipitatio (Cumulonimbus clouds with ground-reaching precipitation)
  • Tuba (Cumulonimbus clouds, with column hanging from the bottom)
  • Velum
  • Pannus (Mass of fractus clouds below cumulonimbus cloud)

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