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Cloud Types

Most clouds are associated with weather. These clouds can be divided into groups mainly based on the height of the cloud's base above the Earth's surface. The following table provides information about cloud groups and any cloud classes associated with them. In addition, some clouds don't fall into the categories by height. These additional cloud groups are listed below the high, middle, and low cloud groups.

Cloud Group and Height * Cloud Types
High Clouds
5,000-13,000m
(Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the sky, however they are not associated with 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

* The cloud heights provided in this table are for the mid-latitudes. Cloud heights are different at the tropics and in the polar regions. In addition, a few other cloud types are found in higher layers of the atmosphere. Polar stratospheric clouds are located in a layer of the atmosphere called the stratosphere. Polar mesoshperic, or noctilucent, clouds are located in the atmospheric layer called the mesosphere.

Clouds

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CMMAP - Studying Clouds and Climate

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Last modified May 21, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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High Clouds

The high cloud group consists of Cirrus, Cirrostratus, and Cirrocumulus clouds. The prefix cirro- means 'high.' High clouds consist of primarily ice crystals due to the cold air in the upper troposphere....more

Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent clouds (NLC’s) or polar mesospheric clouds (PMC’s) are found very high in the Earth's atmosphere (about 85,300 meters above the Earth's surface!). They are called Polar Mesospheric Clouds when...more

Cirrus

Cirrus (weather symbol - Ci) clouds are the most common of the High Cloud (5000-13000m) group. They are composed entirely of ice and consist of long, thin, wispy streamers. They are commonly known as...more

Cirrocumulus

Cirrocumulus clouds (weather symbol - Cc) are composed primarily of ice crystals and belong to the High Cloud group (5000-13000m). They are small rounded puffs that usually appear in long rows. Cirrocumulus...more

Cirrostratus

Cirrostratus (weather symbol - Cs) clouds consist almost entirely of ice crystals and belong to the High Cloud (5000-13000m) group. They are sheetlike thin clouds that usually cover the entire sky. The...more

Middle Clouds

The middle cloud group consists of Altostratus and Altocumulus clouds. The prefix alto- means 'middle.' Middle clouds consist of ice crystals and water droplets. The base of a middle cloud above the surface...more

Altocumulus

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