Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.

Cloud Types

Most clouds have something to do with the weather. Seeing a certain kind of cloud might mean that it will probably rain or snow, or that the weather will be sunny and nice. These clouds can be divided into groups based on how high they are above the Earth's surface. The following table has about the different cloud groups.

Cloud Group and Height * Cloud Types
High Clouds
5,000-13,000m
(Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the sky, but they do not affect the weather like the rest of the clouds in this table.)
Middle Clouds
2,000-7,000m
Low Clouds
Surface-2,000m
Unusual Clouds
(View cloud heights on each cloud's individual page)
Contrails
5,000-13,000m

* Cloud height tells us how high a certain kind of cloud is above the ground. The cloud heights in this table are for the mid-latitudes. Cloud heights are different in tropical areas and in the polar regions.

Clouds

How Clouds Form

CMMAP - Studying Clouds and Climate

Clouds in Art

Cloud Image Gallery

Last modified May 21, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

High Clouds

The high cloud group is made up of Cirrus, Cirrostratus, and Cirrocumulus clouds. High clouds are made of ice crystals. The base of a high cloud above the surface can be anywhere from 6000-18000m in the...more

Noctilucent Clouds

There is a special kind of cloud that is found in the mesosphere, which is the third layer of the Earth's atmosphere. These clouds are called noctilucent clouds (NLC’s) or polar mesospheric clouds (PMC’s)....more

Cirrus

Cirrus clouds are the most common of the High Cloud group. They are made of ice crystals and have long, thin, wispy streamers. Cirrus clouds are usually white and predict fair weather. ...more

Cirrocumulus

Cirrocumulus clouds belong to the High Cloud group. They are small rounded puffs that usually appear in long rows. Cirrocumulus are usually white, but sometimes appear gray. Cirrocumulus clouds are the...more

Cirrostratus

Cirrostratus clouds belong to the High Cloud group. They are sheetlike thin clouds that usually cover the entire sky. The sun or moon can shine through cirrostratus clouds. When looking at the sun through...more

Middle Clouds

The middle cloud group is made up of Altostratus and Altocumulus clouds. Middle clouds are made of ice crystals and water droplets. The base of a middle cloud above the surface can be anywhere from 2...more

Altocumulus

Altocumulus clouds are part of the Middle Cloud group. They are grayish-white with one part of the cloud darker than the other. Altocumulus clouds usually form in groups. Altocumulus clouds are about...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF