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Aviation

Become a cloudspotter

Need to wind down? Why not just drop everything and look at the sky, if just for a moment?

It may not be like the 1970s jogging craze or the yoga movement of the 2000s, but cloudspotting – looking up and admiring clouds and cloud formations – has many friends including more than 50,000 people that have joined the Cloud Appreciation Society (yes, there is one). Some look for entertainment, others for -weather. Whatever the reason, it’s worth lifting your gaze once in a while. 

Photo: Shutterstock

Cirrus

Cirrus – lock or tuft of hair. Silky, wispy clouds that look like they’ve been swiped right (or left). These create a sunset. Height of base: 6,000–12,000m. Precipitation: None

Cirrus

Photo: Shutterstock

Cirrostratus

Cirrus – lock or tuft of hair; stratus – flattened or spread out. Transparent clouds that can cover thousands of kilometers of sky. Resemble stripes on a painting. Height of base: 6,000–12,000m. Precipitation: None.

Cirrostratus

Photo: Shutterstock

Cumulus

Cumulus – heap. Cotton candy, cauliflower-types, often with a dark base.Height: 400–2,000m. Precipitation: Occasional rain or snow showers.

Cumulus

Photo: Shutterstock

Cumulonimbus 
(“King of Clouds”)

Cumulus – heap; nimbus – rainy cloud. Multi-level towers. The only clouds that can produce thunder and lightning. Height: 300m-2,000m. Precipitation: Heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Cumulonimbus

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Nimbostratus

Nimbus – rainy cloud; 
stratus – flattened or spread out. Dark gray, can block the sun. In other words, bad news. Height of base: 700–3,500m. Precipitation: Continuous rain or snow likely.

Nimbostratus

Photo: Shutterstock

Altocumulus

Altum – height; cumulus – heap. Patches of clouds in a range of shapes (think intro to The Simpsons). Height of base: 700-6,000m. Precipitation: None on its own.

Altocumulus

Photo: Shutterstock

Stratus

Stratus – flattened or spread out. Low hanging patches of clouds with fuzzy edges.Height: 0–2,000m. Precipitation: Light.

Stratus

Photo: Shutterstock

Altostratus clouds

Altum – height; 
stratus – flattened or spread out. Made of a mixture of water and ice crystals that allow sunlight to shine through them. Unlike with nimbostratus clouds, the sunlight is too weak to cast shadows. Height of base: 2,200–6,000m. Precipitation: None.

Altostratus clouds

Photo: Shutterstock

Stratocumulus

Stratus – flattened; 
cumulus – heap. Most common cloud type, masses of stratus, colors vary from bright white to gray. Height: 400–2,000m. Precipitation: Light drizzle.

Stratocumulus

Photo: Shutterstock

Cirrocumulus

Cirrus – lock or tuft of hair; cumulus – heap. Rare. Small clouds grouped together high up on the sky like ripples. Height of base: 6,000–12,000m. Precipitation: None.

Cirrocumulus

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Last edited: January 10, 2019

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