While clouds appear in infinite shapes and sizes they loss into some basic forms. Indigenous his Essay the the modifications of Clouds (1803) Luke Howard split clouds into three categories; cirrus, cumulus and stratus.

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Cirro-formThe Latin native 'cirro' means curl that hair. Written of ice cream crystals, cirro-form clouds room whitish and hair-like. There space the high, wispy clouds to very first appear in advancement of a low-pressure area such together a mid-latitude storm system or a tropical mechanism such together a hurricane.
Generally detached clouds, lock look choose white fluffy noodle balls. They show vertical movement or heat uplift that air taking place in the atmosphere. They are usually thick in appearance through sharp outlines. The base of cumulus clouds are generally flat and also occurs at the altitude whereby the humidity in rising air condenses.
From the Latin word because that 'layer' these clouds are usually vast and fairly wide spread appearing like a blanket. They result from non-convective rising air and also tend to take place along and to the phibìc of heat fronts. The edge of strato-form clouds room diffuse.
Howard additionally designated a unique rainy cloud category which combined the three creates Cumulo + Cirro + Stratus. He dubbed this cloud, 'Nimbus', the Latin word because that rain. The vast bulk of precipitation wake up from nimbo-form clouds and also therefore these clouds have actually the greatest vertical height.

The height of Clouds

The traditional department between the Polar and also Temperate regions is the Arctic one (66.5°N) in the north Hemisphere and also the Antarctic circle (66.5°S) in the southerly Hemisphere. The department between the Temperate and also Tropical regions are the Tropics the Cancer (23.5°N) in the northern Hemisphere and the Tropics of Capricorn (23.5°S) in the southern Hemisphere.

The actual division between these areas varies from day to day and season to season. In between the Polar and also Temperate areas lies the jet stream in both hemispheres, when the Sub-Tropical Jet stream divides the Temperate and also Tropical Regions.

One result of this cores of strong wind is the maximum altitude that the tropopause decreases in each an ar as one move from the equator to the poles. Generally, together the tropopause's height decreases, the elevations in ~ which clouds occur also decreases.


The exemption is for short clouds which space officially stated to have cloud bases within the very first 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) of the surface ar in every region. However even that is not always the case.

The basic of cumulus and also cumulonimbus clouds can sometimes be higher than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). Throughout summertime, the base of these convective clouds will certainly be fine in to the mid-level cloud selection in the non-mountainous locations of the southwest unified States.

Cumulus cloud bases have been observed approximately 9,000 feet (2,750 meters) end North central Texas and thunderstorms, v cloud bases native 11,000 to 12,000 feet (3,350 to 3,650 meters), have emerged near san Angelo, Texas.

This wake up when, despite the dry reduced level that the atmosphere, the setting in the mid-levels is relatively moist and also unstable. The dryness of the lower level is such that parcels of air should rise increase to two miles (3 km), and also sometimes more, before the castle cool come the suggest of condensation.

LevelPolar RegionTemperate RegionTropical RegionHigh CloudsMid CloudsLow Clouds
10,000-25,000 feet (3-8 km)16,500-45,000 Feet (5-14 km)20,000-60,000 feet (6-18 km)
6,500-13,000 feet (2-4 km)6,500-23,000 feet (2-7 km)6,500-25,000 feet (2-8 km)
Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)

Since the jet stream follows the sun, the shifts towards the equator as winter progresses. Therefore, the polar an ar expands and also the temperate an ar moves toward the equator. In summer, the Tropical an ar expands shifting the temperate region toward the poles when the polar region shrinks.

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The division between these areas varies from day come day and also season come season based upon places of the jet and also sub-tropical jet streams.

Learning Lesson: A 'Hole' lot of Clouds 1