While clouds show up in unlimited shapes and sizes they autumn into some simple forms. Indigenous his Essay the the changes of Clouds (1803) Luke Howard divided clouds right into three categories; cirrus, cumulus and also stratus.

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Cirro-formThe Latin word 'cirro' method curl of hair. Composed of ice crystals, cirro-form clouds are whitish and hair-like. There room the high, wispy clouds to an initial appear in development of a low-pressure area such together a mid-latitude storm mechanism or a tropical system such together a hurricane.
Generally detached clouds, lock look like white fluffy cotton balls. They display vertical activity or thermal uplift the air following in the atmosphere. They are usually thick in appearance through sharp outlines. The base of cumulus clouds are typically flat and also occurs in ~ the altitude where the moisture in climbing air condenses.
From the Latin word for 'layer' this clouds space usually vast and fairly wide spread appearing like a blanket. They result from non-convective increasing air and also tend to take place along and to the phibìc of heat fronts. The edges of strato-form clouds are diffuse.
Howard likewise designated a distinct rainy cloud group which merged the three creates Cumulo + Cirro + Stratus. He dubbed this cloud, 'Nimbus', the Latin word because that rain. The vast bulk of precipitation occurs from nimbo-form clouds and therefore these clouds have the greatest vertical height.

The height of Clouds

The traditional division between the Polar and Temperate regions is the Arctic one (66.5°N) in the north Hemisphere and also the Antarctic circle (66.5°S) in the southern Hemisphere. The division between the Temperate and Tropical regions are the Tropics that Cancer (23.5°N) in the north Hemisphere and also the Tropics that Capricorn (23.5°S) in the southerly Hemisphere.

The actual department between these regions varies from day come day and season to season. Between the Polar and Temperate regions lies the jet currently in both hemispheres, if the Sub-Tropical Jet currently divides the Temperate and also Tropical Regions.

One result of this cores of solid wind is the best altitude that the tropopause to reduce in each an ar as one move from the equator come the poles. Generally, together the tropopause's height decreases, the elevations in ~ which clouds occur likewise decreases.


The exemption is for low clouds which space officially stated to have cloud bases within the an initial 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) that the surface in every region. However even that is not constantly the case.

The base of cumulus and also cumulonimbus clouds can sometimes be greater than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). Throughout summertime, the base of this convective clouds will certainly be fine in to the mid-level cloud range in the non-mountainous locations of the southwest joined States.

Cumulus cloud bases have been observed as much as 9,000 feet (2,750 meters) end North central Texas and also thunderstorms, through cloud bases from 11,000 come 12,000 feet (3,350 come 3,650 meters), have arisen near san Angelo, Texas.

This happens when, despite the dry reduced level that the atmosphere, the atmosphere in the mid-levels is reasonably moist and unstable. The dryness of the reduced level is such that parcels of air need to rise up to two miles (3 km), and sometimes more, before the they cool come the allude of condensation.

LevelPolar RegionTemperate RegionTropical RegionHigh CloudsMid CloudsLow Clouds
10,000-25,000 feet (3-8 km)16,500-45,000 Feet (5-14 km)20,000-60,000 feet (6-18 km)
6,500-13,000 feet (2-4 km)6,500-23,000 feet (2-7 km)6,500-25,000 feet (2-8 km)
Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)Surface-6,500 feet (0-2 km)

Since the jet stream adheres to the sun, that shifts towards the equator together winter progresses. Therefore, the polar an ar expands and the temperate an ar moves towards the equator. In summer, the Tropical region expands moving the temperate region toward the poles while the polar an ar shrinks.

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The division between these areas varies native day to day and also season to season based upon areas of the jet and also sub-tropical jet streams.

Learning Lesson: A 'Hole' the majority of Clouds 1