This graphic shows cloud heights at different latitudes on the Earth. For example, a middle cloud like an altocumulus cloud would be found at a lower height in the sky at the poles than at the equator (which is in the tropics).
Courtesy of Lisa Gardiner/UCAR
Cloud Heights at Different Latitudes
Different types of clouds can be found at different heights in the sky. In addition to cloud type determining its height, latitude plays a role in how high a cloud is in the sky. Most clouds we see, including clouds that are related to weather, are located in a layer of the atmosphere called the troposphere.
The troposphere has different depths at different places around the Earth. The troposphere is deeper, or higher, near the equator, and it is thinner near the poles. This is because the air is warmer near the equator than at the poles. The Sun heats the Earth mostly at and near the equator, and this warm air rises and causes the troposphere to be deeper above this part of the planet. At and near the poles, the air is cooler and sinks, so the troposphere is thinner above this part of the planet. Because of this, high clouds in the tropics have a higher base and a higher top than high clouds in the mid-latitudes or high clouds in the tropics.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist
, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store
You might also be interested in:
Altocumulus clouds (weather symbol - Ac), are made primarily of liquid water and have a thickness of 1 km. They are part of the Middle Cloud group (2000-7000m up). They are grayish-white with one part...more
Altostratus clouds (weather symbol - As) consist of water and some ice crystals. They belong to the Middle Cloud group (2000-7000m up). An altostratus cloud usually covers the whole sky and has a gray...more
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 (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
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
Cumulonimbus (weather symbol - Cb) clouds belong to the Clouds with Vertical Growth group. They are generally known as thunderstorm clouds. A cumulonimbus cloud can grow to such heights that it actually...more
Cumulus (weather symbol - Cu) clouds belong to the Clouds with Vertical Growth group. They are puffy white or light gray clouds that look like floating cotton balls. Cumulus clouds have sharp outlines...more