Space & Innovation

Cloud-Gazing: Learn Your Cloud Types

Check out the most common cloud types found in the atmosphere, according to the Center for Science Education.

"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.

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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.

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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.

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Cirrus look like streamers, but these high-flying clouds are made of ice crystals and indicate fair weather.

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Cumulonimbus: These broad, high clouds are a sign of heavy rain, snow, hail, lightning and possibly even tornadoes.

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Cumulus are low-hanging clouds that look like cotton balls, and can be associated with either fair or stormy weather.

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Stratocumulus are low, bumpy-looking gray clouds, and they produce light rain.

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Stratus are low, gray clouds that cover most of the sky. They sometimes produce a light mist or drizzle.

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