POP QUIZ: Are you familiar with the different types of clouds? Put your knowledge to the test! | Weather blog



Did you know that there are over 100 different types of cloud? Even though there are over 100 of them, these cloud types can be grouped into smaller basic subtypes based on their general shape and height in the sky. Many of you have probably seen an oddly shaped cloud and wondered … what kind of cloud is this? Let’s take a test to see what you know about the different types of clouds. Try to guess the answer by looking at the picture of the cloud type first.

Image from wikipedia.com

The answer is….Cumulus clouds!

How are they formed?

All cumulus clouds form because of what is called convection. As the heated air on the floor rises, the temperature drops, causing the relative humidity to increase. Once relative humidity reaches 100% at a certain level in the atmosphere, latent heat is released and water vapor condenses. When water vapor condenses on various nuclei in the air, it helps to form a cumulus cloud. This creates the characteristic flat-bottomed inflated shape associated with cumulus clouds. The height of the cloud (from its base to its tip) depends on the temperature profile of the atmosphere and the presence of any inversions. Cumulus clouds are generally between 1,000 and 7,000 feet in the sky. Cumulus clouds develop on clear, sunny days when the sun warms the ground directly below. This is where they get their nickname “fair weather” clouds. They appear at the end of the morning, grow and then disappear towards the evening.


Photo by metoffice.gov/uk

The answer is…Cirrus clouds!

How are they formed?

Cirrus clouds form from the ascent of dry air, causing the small amount of water vapor in the air to settle into ice (to go from a gas directly to a solid). Cirrus clouds are made entirely of ice crystals, which gives them their white color and forms in a wide range of shapes and sizes. These clouds are generally found at very high altitudes, between 16,000 and 49,000 feet in the atmosphere. Cirrus clouds usually occur in good weather. They can also form before warm fronts and large-scale storms like northeast and tropical cyclones, so seeing them can also indicate that storms may be coming.


Photo by Matthew Levine / Getty Images

The answer is…Stratus clouds!

How are they formed?

Stratus clouds are forming under calm and stable conditions when gentle breezes lift cool, moist air over cooler land or ocean surfaces. Those clouds can come in a variety of thicknesses and are sometimes opaque enough to darken the days, letting little light through. These clouds can form by lifting moist air masses in regions adjacent to fronts or above the orography, and by warm advection of a moist layer on a cold surface. Stratus clouds are seen on a dull, overcast day and are associated with light drizzle or drizzle.


Photo by Andrew Peacock / Getty Images

The answer is…Cumulonimbus clouds!

How are they formed?

Cumulonimbus clouds are one of the few clouds that extend over the lower, middle and upper layers. They resemble the cumulus clouds they grow from, except they rise in towers with domed tops that resemble cauliflower. The tops of cumulonimbus clouds are usually always flattened in the shape of an anvil or plume. Their backgrounds are often hazy and dark. Cumulonimbus clouds are thunderstorm clouds, so if you see one you can be sure there is a threat of severe weather nearby. (short but heavy periods of rain, hail, and maybe even tornadoes.)


Photo by Brian Schmit / KGW8

The answer is…Kelvin Helmholtz clouds!

How are they formed?

These are one of the coolest clouds in meteorology and they often catch people’s attention because of the wave-like structure these clouds have. A Kelvin-Helmholtz instability shapes where there is a speed difference through the interface between two fluids: for example, the wind blowing on water. These clouds are found at medium to high levels in the atmosphere, generally above 16,500 feet above the surface. Your chances of seeing these clouds are better on windy days, when there is a difference in air density – for example, during a temperature inversion. – when hot air passes over cooler air. You are also more likely to see these clouds near sunrise or sunset, another time when cloud bottoms are cooler and the air above is warmer.


Image by Wikimedia

The answer is…Mammatus clouds!

How are they formed?

These clouds are my personal favorite, and those of many other meteorologists around the world. Mammatus clouds are usually form in association with large cumulonimbus clouds clouds. Typically, turbulence in cumulonimbus clouds cloud will cause mammatus To form, especially on the underside of the protruding anvil as it descends rapidly to lower levels. This is another type of cloud that often catches the attention of the public with its almost popcorn characteristics.

So how did you do it? Do you know these types of clouds? Thanks for playing!


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