Kr-val, via Wikimedia Commons.
"I really don't know clouds at all," folksinger Joni Mitchell once noted in her lyrics. Which is too bad, because we would have been glad to tell her all about clouds. While it's up to you to decide which ones look like ice cream castles in the air, here are the most common cloud types found in the atmosphere, according to the Center for Science Education. Altocumulus are mid-level grayish-white clouds, which have one darker and one lighter part. If you see them on a warm, humid morning, you might have a thunderstorm in the afternoon.NEWS: Mysterious, Wavelike Cloud Hugs Grand Tetons
Benuter-Living Shadow via Wikimedia Commons
Altostratus are fairly bland-looking gray or blue-gray mid-level clouds that usually cover the whole sky, and indicate that rain or snow may be on the way.BLOG: Angry, Rolling Cloud Is First New Type In 60 Years
Living Shadow, via Wikimedia Commons
Cirrocumulus clouds have small, round puffs that are arranged in long rows high in the sky. They're commonly seen in winter and indicate cold but clear weather.NEWS: Global Warming Could Cause More Cold Snaps
Przemysla w_Blueshade_Idzkiewicz, via Wikimedia Commons
Cirrus look like streamers, but these high-flying clouds are made of ice crystals and indicate fair weather.BLOG: Cloud Seeding Locks Down a Sunny Wedding Day
Giancarlo Rossi, via Wikimedia Commons
Cumulonimbus: These broad, high clouds are a sign of heavy rain, snow, hail, lightning and possibly even tornadoes.Earth Shots: Must-See Planet Pics (March 2)
Glg, via Wikimedia Commons
Cumulus are low-hanging clouds that look like cotton balls, and can be associated with either fair or stormy weather.BLOG: Cities Spark More Thunderstorms Than Rural Areas
Simon Eugster, via Wikimedia Commons
Stratocumulus are low, bumpy-looking gray clouds, and they produce light rain.PHOTOS: Ice Storm Captured Before The Melt
A bizarre cloud formation surprised commuters as they made their way to work last week on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Weather blogger Rogerio Pacheco witnessed the cloud and decided he had to act quickly, reported the Daily Mail: “As soon as I saw the sky, I was immediately intrigued and I just had to grab my camera to take a photo.”
Emma Sharples, a meteorlogist from the UK’s Met Office, told the BBC the cloud formaction actually was not unusual.
But Pacheco’s timing was exceptional, capturing a lower cloud as it caught the sun’s scattered light, just as it was making contact with a higher cloud.
“I think the presence of a rising sun has made (it) appear more striking than the clouds alone would appear,” Sharples said.
“We think they are probably cumulus clouds (cauliflower-shaped and fluffy), so pretty common, but enhanced by the light conditions.”