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Cloudtypesforobservers

Readingthesky

Cloudtypesforobservers

Readingthesky

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 1

Introduction

Cloudsarecontinuallychangingandappearinaninfinite varietyofforms.Itispossible,however,todefinealimited numberofcharacteristicformsobservedallovertheworld intowhichcloudscanbebroadlygrouped.TheWorld MeteorologicalOrganization(WMO)hasdrawnupa classificationofthesecharacteristicformstoenablean observertoreportthetypesofcloudpresent.This publicationillustratesandexplainstheclassifications. Classificationisbasedon10maingroupsofclouds.These aredividedintothreelevelslow,mediumandhigh accordingtothatpartoftheatmosphereinwhichtheyare usuallyfound.AcodefiguredesignatedCL,CM orCH is usedtodescribethecloudsofeachlevel.Thedivisionsare showninthetablebelow.Whenthereismorethanone typeofcloudofanylevelpresent,anorderofpriorityhas beenarrangedbyWMOtodeterminewhichcodefigure shouldbeused. Inthispublicationaseparatesectionisdevotedtothe cloudsofeachlevel.Atthebeginningofeachsectiona pictorialguideshowsthepriorityofcoding.

Thedescriptionsandphotographswhichfollowaregiven inthesameorderasthecodefiguresinthepictorialguide. Tofindthecorrectcodefigurefromthepictorialguides, startatwhichevercircleisapplicableatthetopofthepage andfollowthesolidlinefromdescriptiontodescriptionas longasallthecriteriaareapplicable.Ifadescriptionis reachedwhichisnotapplicable,returntotheprevious descriptionandtakethepeckedlinetoapicturesquare. Thecorrectcodefigurewillbefoundinthetoprighthand cornerofthepicturesquare. Distinguishingfeaturesconnectedwiththe10maingroups ofcloudsarelistedattheendofthispublication.Observers mayfindthisausefulguidewhenconsideringwhich cloudsmaybepresent,orwheneliminatingimprobable clouds,especiallyduringdarkness.Insomemeteorological messages,cloudsareidentifiedaccordingtothe10main groups.Acodefigure,designatedC,isused.Allreferences toCcodefiguresinthispublicationareprintedinred. IntheUnitedKingdomtheheightofthecloudbaseis reportedinfeet.

Cloudclassification
Level Highclouds (baseusually20,000ftor above,overBritishIsles) Mediumclouds (baseusuallybetween6,500 and20,000ftoverBritishIsles, althoughNsmaylowertonear theEarth'ssurface) Lowclouds (baseusuallybelow6,500ft overBritishIsles) Designation CH Type Cirrus Cirrocumulus Cirrostratus Altocumulus Altostratus Nimbostratus Abbreviation Ci Cc Cs Ac As Ns Ccode 0 1 2 3 4 5

CM

CL

Stratocumulus Stratus Cumulus Cumulonimbus

Sc St Cu Cb

6 7 8 9

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

PictorialguideCL:ScStCuCb
Tofindthecorrectcodefigurebelow,startatwhichever circleisapplicableandthenfollowthesolidlinefrom descriptiontodescription,solongasallcriteriaaremet.
Cb,withclearlyfibrousor
striatedupperpartpresent

Ifadescriptionisreachedwhichisnotapplicable,returnto thepreviousdescriptionandfollowthepeckedline.

CL9

Cb present
CSBroomfield

No Cb

Cb,withoutclearlyfibrousor striatedupperpartpresent

CL3
NoScformedbythe spreadingoutofCu

Sc,formedbythespreading outofCu,present

CL4

RKPilsbury

CuandScwithbasesat differentlevels

CL8

NoCuandScwithbases atdifferentlevels

Cuofmoderateorgreat verticalextentpresent

CL2

CSBroomfield

Cuoflittleverticalextent,or raggedCuotherthanofbad weather,orboth

CL1

NoCuofmoderateor
greatverticalextent.
UseCL =1,5,6or7,
whicheverpredominates

St,orraggedStotherthanof badweather,orboth

CL6

SJebson

Scnotformedbythespreading outofCu

CL5

RaggedStorraggedCu, ofbadweather,orboth

CL7

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 3

CSBroomfield

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

CL9Cumulonimbuswithanvil

(CloudGroupC9)

Thecharacteristicshapeofthesecloudscan onlybeseenasawholewhenviewedfrom adistance(topphotograph).Thetopsof thesemassivecloudsshowafibrousor striatedstructurethatfrequentlyresembles ananvil(facingpage,topleft),plume,or hugemassofhair(facingpage,bottom left).Theymayoccurasanisolatedcloud oranextensivewall(facingpage,3rdrow right).Squalls,hailand/orthunderoften accompanythem. Underneaththebase,whichisoftenvery dark,pannuscloudsCL7frequentlyform and,instorms,thesemaybeonlyafew hundredfeetabovetheEarth'ssurface.The pannuscloudsmaymergetoforma continuouslayer.Theremayberagged cumulus(bottomphotograph)oradense horizontalrollattheshower'sedge. Mammamayform,especiallyonthe undersideoftheprojectinganvil(facing page,2ndrowleft),andmayappear particularlyprominentwhenthesunislow in the sky. Virga may often be seen. Dense cirrus, altocumulus, altostratus, stratocumulus, cumulus and stratus may also be present. If the cumulonimbus passes nearly, or directly, overhead the characteristic top can be lost to view. An observer, seeing only the underside, may therefore confuse it with nimbostratus if a watch has not been kept on the sky, but by convention, the cloud is reported as cumulonimbus if accompanied by lightning, thunder, hail or other precipitation of a showery nature. CL=9isusedwhenitisimpossibleto differentiatebetweenCL3andCL9. Cumulonimbusmostfrequentlydevelop fromlargecumulusCL2;sometimesthey developfromaltocumuluscastellanusCM8, thenthebaseisunusuallyhigh;theymay beembeddedinaltostratusor nimbostratus;and/ortheymaydisintegrate into dense cirrus CH3.
RDWhyman PHJeffries

StraitofGibraltar Baseofstratocumulusinforegroundabout1,800ft

Bracknell

Bracknell Cloudbase1,0001,200ft

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

RDWhyman

CL3Cumulonimbus withoutanvil(CloudGroupC9)

KWoodley

NewtonBreda

Bracknell Cloudbaseabout3,000ft

CSBroomfield

ThecloudsofCL3aregenerallyatan intermediatestagerepresentingafurther developmentofCL2butnotyetreaching thestageofCL9. Theclearcutoutlinesandcauliflowertops ofCL2haveatleastpartiallydisappeared, butnopartofthecloudtophasacquireda fibrousappearanceoranyanvil development.Theprotuberancestendto formawhitishmasswithoutstriations. Showersorthunderstormsmayoccur. Cumulus,stratocumulusorstratusmay alsobepresent. New cloud domes may be produced which makethecumulonimbusassume, temporarily,theappearanceoftowering cumulusCL2,butitshouldstillbecalled cumulonimbusandreportedasCL3.The occurrenceoflightning,thunderorhail sometimesprovidestheonlyindicationof thepresenceofacumulonimbus.If,inthis case,itisnotpossibletodecidewhether thecloudisCL3orCL9,thecodingis,by convention,CL=9.

TotlandIOWCloudbase1,800ft

Dishforth

PJBNye

RKPilsbury

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 5

Crowncopyright

CL4Stratocumulusfromspreadingoutofcumulus

(CloudGroupC6)

Thistypeofstratocumulusmostoften formswhentheupperpartofcumulus clouds,thathadbeengainingheightand arenolongerabletodoso,beginto spreadouthorizontally.Thecumulus generallywidentowardsthelevelatwhich theyspreadout.Sometimesthecumulus growthisresumed,atleastinsomeplaces, abovethestratocumulus.Raggedmamma oftenappearontheundersideofthe stratocumulus(seeinsettomiddle photograph).Theindividualmamma elementsareshortlivedanddonotappear asprominentasthoseshowninthesecond rowphotographonpage36. AnotherformofCL4oftenoccursinthe eveningwhenthesun'sheatdecreases and,inconsequence,cumulusclouds flattenandassumetheappearanceof patchesofstratocumulus.Thisisdepicted inthebottomgroupofphotographswhich weretakenoveraperiodofabout20 minutes.Cirrusandcirrostratusalsoappear inthesephotographs.

RAFCranwell

Cirrostratusandcirruscanalsobeseen

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

RKPilsbury

jfpGalvin

SGCornford

RKPilsbury

CL8Cumulusandstratocumulusatdifferent
heights (CloudGroupsC6andC8)

ThecodefigureCL=8isusedforcumulus andstratocumulus,otherthanthe stratocumulusformedfromthespreading outofcumulusCL=4,thathavetheirbases atdifferentheights.


CSBroomfield(Crowncopyright)

Cumulusbase2,000ft.Stratocumulusbase3,000ft

Usuallythecumulusformsbeneathpatches orasheetofstratocumulusandmayeven thrustitswayintoorthroughthe stratocumulus(bottomphotograph). UnlikesomeCL4thecumulusofCL8does notwidenupwardstowardsthe stratocumuluslayer.Athinnedoreven clearedareamaysurroundthecumulus column. Lessfrequentlythecumulusappearsabove thestratocumulus. Thecaptionstothetopandbottom photographsshowtheestimatedheightof thecloudbaseatthetimeeachpicturewas taken.

TotlandIOW Stratocumulusandcumulus

Cumulusbase2,500ft.Stratocumulusbase6,500ft

CSBroomfield(Crowncopyright)

RKPilsbury

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 7

CL2Cumulusofmoderateorstrongvertical development (CloudGroupC8)


ThesecloudsareadevelopmentofCL1. Theiroutlineisusuallyclearcut,with horizontalbasesandcauliflowershaped tops(topphotograph),althoughinfresh windssomeraggednessmayoccur.Sunlit partsaremostlybrilliantwhitewhilebases arerelativelydark.Thecloudsare sometimesarrangedinlines,calledcloud streets,nearlyparalleltothewinddirection (smallpictures,topright).Theymayalso formwithtalltowers(smallpictures,top left)thatmaybetiltedbythewind. Whenwelldevelopedthesecloudsmay sometimesgiveshowersandinthetropics theremaybeabundantrainfall. SmallcumulusCL1andstratocumulusCL5 mayalsobepresent,allhavingtheirbases atthesamelevel.Welldevelopedcumulus cloudsmaybeaccompaniedbydense cirrus,CH2orCH3,andaltocumulus, formedfromthespreadingoutofcumulus CM6. Overland,cumuluscloudsusuallydisperse inthelateafternoonorearlyevening. Overtheoceans,maximumcumulus activityseemstooccurinthelatehoursof thenight. Asthereislittlechangeinthetemperatureof theseabeneaththem,theheightofthebase ofcumulusintheoceantradewindbeltsis remarkablyuniformataround2,000ft.
RKPilsbury

ChristchurchBay Cumulusbase3,000ft

Cumulusmediocris

ChristchurchBay Cumulusbase2,500ft

Bracknell Cumulusbase3,000ftwithvirga

RDWhyman

Cumuluscongestus

Largecumulus

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

GeoAnderson

Crowncopyright

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

CL1Smallcumulus
(CloudGroupC8)

Base1,200ft

Odiham,Hants.Base2,000ft

Cumulusformationisoftenprecededby hazyspotsoutofwhichthecloudsevolve (top left). The clouds in their early stages of formation are depicted in the photograph at top right. When completely formed, the clouds have clearcut horizontal bases and rounded tops (centre photographs). In this stagetheyarecalledfairweather cumulus.Inthephotographatbottomleft thecloudshavebeenfrayedbyafairly strong,turbulentwind. Overland,onclearmornings,cumulus mayform as the sun rapidly heats the ground, or may result from the transformation of stratus CL6.Nearcoasts, cumulusmayformoverthelandbydayin aseabreezeandovertheseaduringthe nightinalandbreeze. Cumulusinthelaststagesofdissipation (bottomright)isalsocodedasCL=1. Ifatleastoneofthecumulusclouds presentintheskyshowsmoderateor strongverticaldevelopment,thecodeCL=2 isused.

CSBroomfield

Fareham,Hants Base3,000ft

Base2,000ft

CSBroomfield

RKPilsbury

CSBroomfield

WestMeon,Hants

Penmaen Cumulusfractus

WGPendleton

CSBroomfield

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 9

CL5Stratocumulusnotfromthespreading ofcumulus (CloudGroupC6)


Stratocumulusoccursinpatchesorlayers, composedofroundedmassesorrolls,at oneormorelevels.Thecloudsaregreyor whitishandalmostalwayshavedarkparts. Mostoftheregularlyarrangedsmall elements,whenmorethan30abovethe horizon,haveanapparentwidthofmore thanthreefingersatarm'slength. Whenintheformofdarkrolls(top photograph)theedgesoftenmerge togethertoformacontinuouslayer. Sometimestheelementslieinparallel bands(middlephotograph).Dueto perspectivethesemayappeartoconverge towardsthehorizon. Sometimesthecloudisnotverydenseand gapsmayappearbetweentheelements (bottomphotograph). Inthetropicsespecially,stratocumulusmay occurasalarge,singlerollcloud.Itmay alsooccurintheshapeoflensesor almonds,althoughthisisfairlyrare.One particularspecies,calledstratocumulus castellanus,hascumulusliketurretsrising fromacommonhorizontalbase(bottom, inset).Theturretsmaydevelopintolarge cumulus,whenthecodingbecomesCL=2 C=8,orevencumulonimbus. StratusCL6C=7 maylifttobecome stratocumulusCL5C=6.Stratocumulus oftenformsbeneathnimbostratusCM2 C=5.

Oslofjord Stratocumulusstratiformis

Aldergrove Stratocumulusstratiformis

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C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

JFPGalvin

RMBlackall

Crowncopyright

JFPGalvin

CL7Stratusfractusandcumulusfractusofbad
weather (CloudGroupC7)

Theseraggedshredsoflowcloudalways appearinassociationwithotherclouds. Theyoftenformbeneathlowering altostratus or nimbostratus, during precipitation and for a short time before and after. They also occur beneath cumulonimbus and precipitating cumulus. Collectively they are known as pannus or scud. Frequently these clouds become increasingly numerous and merge into a more or less continuous layer, sometimes completely obscuring the sky above. They appear dark or grey against the lighter grey of the cloud above and generally move quickly across the sky, changing shape rapidly.

Pannus(dark)600ftbeneath nimbostratus(lightgrey)2,000ft

Kingswood Stratusfractus

Cumulusfractus1,500ftbeneathaltostratus8,000ft

CSBroomfield

Crowncopyright

CSBroomfield

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 1 1

CL6Stratus
(CloudGroupC7)

Stratusmostcommonlyoccursasasingle, grey,fairlyuniform,featurelesslayeroflow cloud.Occasionallyitcanbedarkoreven threatening,althoughatmostitcanonly produceweakprecipitation.Thisfeature makesitfairlyeasytodistinguishfrom nimbostratus,whichnearlyalways producesrain,snoworicepellets. However,precipitationfallingfromahigher cloudthroughadark,uniformlayerof stratusmaycausetheobserversome confusion.Stratus,whenformingor dissipating,mayappearasraggedshreds calledstratusfractus.Whenoccurringalone theseshredsappeargreywhenviewed towardsthesunandwhitewhenviewed awayfromit.Theymayalsoappear beneathacontinuouslayerofstratus. Theseshreds,unlikethoseofCL7,arenot accompaniedbyprecipitation.Fogwill oftenliftintoalayerofstratusbyan increaseinwindorariseintemperature. Stratusissometimescomparativelythin andthediscofthesunormoonmaybe seenwithaclearoutline(photograph, bottomright). Thetopphotographshowsapatchof stratusalmostrestingontheheadland 462ftabovemeansealevel.Inthesecond photographthetopofan180ftoffice blockislosttoviewinlowstratusonan overcastfoggymorning.Patchesbeneatha mainlayerareseeninthethirdrowleft. Thirdrowrightshowsstratus,inahilly region,baselessthan50ftaboveground, thathasdriftedinfromthesea.Alayerof stratusintheprocessofdissipationis shownatbottomleft.Thebaseofthe cloudinthisphotographwasestimatedto be900ft.

WestWight

Bracknell

IsleofMan

CSBroomfield(Crowncopyright)

Bracknell

12

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

RKPilsbury

CSBroomfield

FNorton

CSBroomfield

RKPilsbury

PictorialguideCM:AcAsNs

Tofindthecorrectcodefigurebelow,startatwhichever circleisapplicableandthenfollowthesolidlinefrom descriptiontodescription,solongasallcriteriaaremet. Ifadescriptionisreachedwhichisnotapplicable,returnto thepreviousdescriptionandfollowthepeckedline.

SemitransparentAs

CM1

No Ac

Ac present

Chaoticsky

CM9

Skynotchaotic

OpaqueAs,orNs

CM2

NoturretedAcand noAcintufts

TurretedAcorAcintufts present

CM8

SGCornford

Ac,formedbythespreading outofCuorCb,present

CM6

NoAcformedby thespreadingout ofCuorCb

AsorNsalsopresent

CM7

Acinvadingthesky

CM5

Acnotchanging muchnorinthe shapeofalmonds andlenses

Accontinuallychangingin appearanceorintheshapeof almondsorlenses

CM4

RKPilsbury

Acattwoormorelevels

CM7

Semitransparent Acpredominant

CM3

OpaqueAcpredominant

CM7

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 1 3

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

Acatasinglelevel useCM =3or7, whichever predominates

CSBroomfield

Acnotinvadingthe sky
RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

NoAsandnoNs

Crowncopyright

CSBroomfield

CM2Thickaltostratusornimbostratus

(CloudGroupsC4and C5)

Withfurtherthickeningofaltostratusand loweringofitsbase,thecloudmay eventuallybecomethickenoughtomask thesunthroughout.Atthisstageitiscalled nimbostratus.TheCM coderemainsCM=2 buttheCcodechangestoC=5, continuouslyfallingrainorsnowgivesita diffuseappearance.Pannusclouds, generallymovingfastandchangingshape rapidly,frequentlyoccurbeneathitsbase. Thesecloudsappeardarkorgreyagainst thelighterbackgroundofthecloudabove. Duringheavyprecipitationthepannusmay disappear. Ifpannuscloudsmergeintoacontinuous layerobscuringthecloudabove,the codingCM=2shouldbereplacedbya/and thepannuscodedasCL=7C=7. Inthetropics,particularlyduringshortlulls intherainfall,nimbostratusmaybreakinto severaldifferentcloudlayerswhichrapidly mergeagain.Thecloudsthenoftenshowa verylividcolourwithvariationsin brightness.

Baseofnimbostratusestimatedat6,0008,000ftwith pannusat800ft

Nimbostratuswithstratusfractus

Nimbostratuswithpannus,base800ft,below

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C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

RKPilsbury

CSBroomfield

RKPilsbury

AltostratusCM2isdenserandofadarker greyorbluishgreythanaltostratusCM1 fromwhichitmaydevelop.Thegreater partissufficientlydensetocompletely maskthesunormoon.Raggedshredsof pannuscloudsCL7mayformata considerabledistancebelowthealtostratus. Later,withathickeningofthealtostratus andaloweringofitsbase,thisdistanceis greatlyreduced.Pannuscanbeseeninthe threephotographsonthispage.

CM1Thinaltostratus
(CloudGroupC4)

Thinaltostratususuallyevolvesfrom the gradual thickening of a veil of cirrostratus. It nearly always appears as a layer of great horizontal extent. It is of a greyish or bluish colour, never white, and the greater part is always translucent enough to reveal the sun (or moon) as through ground glass. The groundglass effect can be seen in the three photographs on this page. Objects on the ground do not cast shadows, and halo phenomena are never seen. Pannus clouds CL7mayoccur. Intheirinitialstagesofformationthe pannuscloudsaresmallandwellseparated andusuallyoccurataconsiderable distancebelowthealtostratus.Sometimes, especiallyinthetropics,altostratusmay form from the spreading out of the middle or upper part of a cumulonimbus.

Cloudbase10,000ft

Altostratus15,000ftwithstratocumulus, bases3,000ftand5,000ft,beneath

Altostratusshowingbroadparallelbands

RKPilsbury

SGCornford

CSBroomfield

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 1 5

CM9Altocumulusofachaoticsky
(CloudGroupC3)

Altocumulusofachaoticskygenerally occursatseverallevels.Theskyis characterisedbyitsheavy,stagnant appearance.Therearemoreorlessbroken cloudsheetsofpoorlydefinedcloudsofall transitionalformsfromratherlow,thick altocumulus,tohigh,thinaltostratus.There isgenerallyamixtureoflowlevelandhigh levelcloudsalsopresentinthistypeofsky. Inthetopphotographtheestimatedbase ofthelowestcloudis7,000ft.Thereare confusedhigherlayersuptothesheetof altostratusat15,000ft.Aprominentturret of altocumulus castellanus can be seen in thecentreofthephotograph. Inthemiddlephotographragged altocumulus and altostratus can be seen in several illdefined layers, the lowest appearing grey in the lightofthesetting sun.Thelayersrangeinheightfromabout 8,000ftto18,000ft.Virgacanbeseen trailing beneath some of the clouds. Thebottompictureshowspoorlydefined patchesofaltocumulus and stratocumulus beneath extensive layers of altostratus and altocumulus.
CSBroomfield CSBroomfield RKPilsbury

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C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

CM8Altocumuluswithtuftsorsproutings

(CloudGroupC3)

Twospeciesofaltocumulusarecoded underCM8. Altocumulusfloccusclouds,asdepictedin thetopphotograph,occuraswhiteorgrey scattered tufts with rounded and slightly bulgingupperparts. These clouds resembleverysmallragged cumulus and are often accompanied by fibrous trails of virga from their bases. Altocumulus castellanus is pictured in the other two photographs. This species has sproutings in the form of small towers or battlements and the cumiliform appearance is more marked than in altocumulus floccus. The cloud elements have a common base and appear to be arranged in lines. These characteristics are evident when the cloud is seen from the side. Altocumulus castellanus may develop into large cumulus CL2orsometimes cumulonimbusCL3or9.Altocumulus floccussometimesresultsfromthe dissipationofthebaseofaltocumulus castellanus,andmayitselfdissipate,leaving behindverywhitetrailsofcirrus. Boththesetypesareassociatedwith developingthunderyconditionsovera wideareaasopposedtothunderstorms arisingfromlocallygenerated cumulonimbusclouds.
RKPilsbury

Altocumulusfloccuswithvirga,base15,000ft

LondonHeathrowAirport Altocumuluscastellanus,base7,000ft

GreatGaddeston,Herts Altocumuluscastellanus,baseabout15,000ft

RNHughes

DMGBuchanan

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 1 7

CM7Altocumuluswithaltostratusornimbostratus
(Otherthanchaoticsky)

(CloudGroupC3ifaltocumuluspredominates,C4ifaltostratus predominates,C5ifnimbostratuspredominates)

Whenaltocumulusoccurstogetherwith altostratusornimbostratus,CM iscodedas 7(unlessCM=9applies.) Thecloudsmayoccurasasingleora multiplelayer,showingpartlythe characteristicsofaltocumulus,partlythose ofaltostratusornimbostratus.Thissky resultsfromtransformationprocessesby whichaltocumuluschangeslocallyand acquirestheappearanceofaltostratusor nimbostratus. Altocumulusandaltostratusatthesame levelaredepictedinthetopphotograph.In themiddlephotographtheyoccuratmore thanonelevel. CodefigureCM=7isalsousedtoreport altocumulusintwoormorelayers,orthick altocumulusinasinglelayer.Thencode figuresCM=6,5and4takeprecedenceover CM=7.Descriptionsoftheseothertypesof skyofCM7aregivenonpage22.
Bracknell Cloudbase12,000ft

IsleofSkye Cloudbasebetween10,000and15,000ft

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C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

CSBroomfield

SGCornford

RKPilsbury

CM6Altocumulusfromthespreading
outofcumulus (CloudGroupC3)

Onsomeoccasionstheupwardgrowthof cumuluscloudonreachingmediumcloud levelsisarrested.Thetopofthe cumulus cloud then spreads out to form altocumulus CM6.Thetopphotograph showstheearlystagesofthis type of formation. The photograph beneath was taken of the same cloud some time later when the spread of the altocumulus had become much more extensive. Cirrostratus is also seen above the altocumulus and cumulus. Another example of this type of altocumulus development is seen at the bottom of the page (top line and bottom left). Occasionally, after a temporary spreading out, upward growth is resumed in places so that the altocumulus appears on the side of the cumulus. This renewed upward growth can be seen in the photograph at bottom right. Altocumulus CM6canalso occuronthesideofcumulonimbus. Becauseofthewayinwhichitisformed, CM6occursinpatches.Thesearefairly thickatfirstandtheirundersurfacemay appearrippled.Laterthesepatchesthin outandbreakintoseparateelements. Altocumulusneverhasthefibrous structure,silkysheenorwhitenessofthe anvilofcumulonimbus.

Totland,IOW

Cumulusbase3,000ft,altocumulusbaseabout 10,500ft,cirrostratusabout25,000ft

FNorton

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

ShinfieldPark,Reading

ShinfieldPark,Reading

ShinfieldPark,Reading

F Norton

RKPilsbury

FNorton

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 1 9

CM5Altocumulusprogressivelyinvadingthesky

(CloudGroupC3)

ThealtocumuluscloudsofCM5gradually spreadfromonepartofthehorizon,often passingoverhead,andmayeventually reachtheoppositehorizon.Theseclouds generallythicken,andusuallyappear thickest,inthedirectionfromwhichthey firstappeared.Theadvancingedgemay consistofsmallcloudlets,ofteninthe processofdissipation,whichmaycovera largeexpanseofthesky.Thecloudsoften lieinparallelbandsandmaybeinoneor morelayers.ThecodingCM=5isnolonger applicableoncethecloudsstretchfrom horizontohorizon,orwhentheforward edgenolongerprogresses. If,duringitsprogressacrossthesky,parts ofthealtocumuluschangetoaltostratusor nimbostratus,thecodingbecomesCM=7 insteadofCM=5. Themiddlephotographwastakenashort timeafterthetopphotographandtogether theyillustratethespreadofaltocumulus withtime.

Bracknell Base9,000ft

Bracknell Base9,000ft

Totland,IOW Altocumulusstratiformis

20

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RKPilsbury

CSBroomfield

CSBroomfield

CM4Altocumuluscontinuallychangingshape lenticularaltocumulus (CloudGroupC3)


Theirregularlyarrangedelementsof altocumulusofspecificationCM=4are continuouslychanginginshape.They oftenappeartobedissolvinginsome placesandforminginothers.Thiscanbe seenbycomparingthetwo top photographs which were taken within five minutes of each other. These clouds are usually thin and do not progressively invade the sky. They often resemble a net or honeycomb. The altocumulus of CM4oftenformsin patchesintheshapeofalmondsorlenses andisthen called altocumulus lenticularis. These formations are caused by wave motions in the atmosphere and are frequently seen in mountainous or hilly areas. They are often called wave clouds. They may be triggered by hills only a few hundred metres high and may extend downwind for over 100 km. The cloud elements form at the windward edge of the cloud and are carried to the downwind edge where they evaporate. The cloud as a whole is usually stationary or slow moving. These clouds often have very smooth outlines and show definite shading. At sea they are likely to be seen only to landward. They may appear well distributed over the sky (middle left stratocumulus is also present), or as a single element (middle right), and can resemble a pile of plates when the elements appear one on top of the other.

RKPilsbury

TotlandIOW

RKPilsbury

Aberdeenatsunset

SouthernSpain

Aberdeen

CerrigyDrudion

Crowncopyright

JAWalton

PHJeffries

RKPilsbury

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 2 1

CM7Altocumulusatmorethanonelevel
(CloudGroupC3)

Besidesbeingusedtospecifyaltocumulus togetherwithaltostratusornimbostratus (page18)thecodefigureCM=7isusedto describepatches,sheets,orlayersof altocumulusattwoormorelevels. Thesepatches,sheets,orlayersmaybeof eithergenerallythinaltocumulus,although thickenoughinplacestomaskthesunor mooncompletely,oraltocumuluswhichis thickthroughout. Theelementsofthisaltocumulusdonot changecontinually,nordotheclouds progressivelyinvadethesky. Inthetopphotographthelowergreylayer wasestimatedtobeat8,000ftandthe higherwhitelayerat12,000ft.Inthe middlephotographthelayerswere estimatedtobeat10,000ftand15,000ft. The bottom photograph was taken when the sun was low in the sky and the difference in colouring shows the two layers quite distinctly. The base of the darkgrey layer was estimated to be at 8,000 ft and the upper white layer at 15,000 ft. Note: Further specifications for CM=7are givenonpage24.
CSBroomfield

22

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

CSBroomfield

CSBroomfield

CM3Semitransparentaltocumulus

(CloudGroupC3)

ThecodingCM=3isusedtoreport altocumulusatasinglelevel,thegreater partofwhichissufficientlytransparentto reveal the position of the sun or moon. The clouds do not progressively invade the sky, and the individual elements change very little. The regularly arranged elements, as pictured in the top and middle photographs, usually have an apparent width of between one and three fingers at arm's length, when 30 or more above the horizon. In the middle photograph an aircraft condensation trail high above the altocumulus can also be seen. These thin altocumulus clouds usually produce a corona.

Base12,000ft

SJebson

CSBroomfield

CSBroomfield

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 2 3

CM7Thickaltocumulusinasinglelayer

(CloudGroupC3)

Inadditiontothespecificationsonpages 18and22,CM=7isalsousedwhenthere arepatches,sheetsoralayerof predominantlythickaltocumulusata singlelevel.Theelementsofthis altocumulusdonotchangecontinually, nordoesthecloudprogressivelyinvadethe sky.Mostoftheregularlyarranged elements,asshowninthemiddleand bottomphotographs,haveanapparent widthofbetweenoneandthreefingersat arm'slength,when30ormoreabovethe horizon.Eveniftheelementsappear smallerthanthis,thecloudisstillclassified altocumulusifitshowsshading.Inthetop photographthecloudelementsare irregularinshape.

Base8,000ft

Base9,000ft

Altocumulusstratiformis

24

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

JFPGalvin

CSBroomfield

RKPilsbury

PictorialCH:CiCcCs
Tofindthecorrectcodefigurebelow,startatwhichever circleisapplicableandthenfollowthe solid line from descriptiontodescription,solongasallcriteria are met.
CcaloneormorethananyCi andCscombined

Ifadescriptionisreachedwhichisnotapplicable,returnto thepreviousdescriptionandfollowthepeckedline.

CH9

Ccaloneor morethan anyCiand Cs combined


Crowncopyright

NoCcorCc lessthan anyCiand Cs combined

Ciinvadingthesky

CH4

NoCs

Cspresent

Cscoveringthewholesky

CH7

RKPilsbury

DenseCioriginatingfromCb, present

CH3

Cinot invadingthe sky

Csnot coveringthe wholesky

Csnotinvadingthesky

CH8

CSBroomfield

DenseCi+turretedCi+Ciin tuftsmorethanotherCi

CH2

NodenseCi originating fromCb. UseCH =1or2, whichever predominates

Csinvading thesky

Csexceeding45

CH6

CSBroomfield

Ciinfilamentsorhooksmore thanotherCi

CH1

Csnotexceeding45

CH5

CSBroomfield

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 2 5

RKPilsbury

Crowncopyright

RKPilsbury

RNHughes

CH9Cirrocumulus
(CloudGroupC1)

Realcirrocumulusisuncommon. Thecloudiscomposedofverysmall elements,mostofwhichhaveanapparent widthoflessthanthelittlefingerheldat armslength.Theelementsnevershow shading.Theyareoftenarrangedinripples resemblingthoseleftbytheebbtideinthe sandontheseashore.Thecloudelements andclearspacesmayalsobearrangedina manner suggesting a net or a honeycomb (top photograph). The regular pattern of waves and small gaps may resemble the skin of a mackerel, thus giving rise to the popular name mackerel sky. (This name is also occasionally given to high altocumulus clouds.) In hilly regions the cloud may appearinmoreorlessisolatedpatches whicharealmondshapedandverywhite throughout. Thecloudisfrequentlyassociatedwith cirrusorcirrostratusbutcodefigure CH=9shouldonlybeusedwhenthe cirrocumuluspredominates. Thecloudsshowninthephotographshad estimatedbasesof20,000ftorabove.

Cirrocumulusstratiformis

26

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

FNorton

CH7Cirrostratuscoveringthewholesky
(CloudGroupC2)

CodefigureCH=7isonlyusedwhenaveil ofcirrostratuscoverstheentiresky. Althoughitmayberelativelydense,theveil issometimessothinthat it is barely visible. It may be distinguished from altostratus by its thinness, which allows shadows to be cast when the sun is not low in the sky, and that it often displays halo phenomena. If the sun is bright it may be difficult to see a halo around it, but by covering the sun with the hand it is usually possible to see any halo quite well. The distance between the top of the thumb and the little finger spread wide apart at arms length is almost as wide as the radius of the small (22) halo. (Haloes are often spoken of in weather lore as foreshadowing storms, but they are too common to be reliable signs of impending stormy weather.) It is sometimes difficult to discern cirrostratus through haze. Cirrostratus differs from haze, in that haze is opalescent or has a dirty yellowish to brownish colour. If there are any gaps in the veil of cirrostratus through which the blue of the sky can be distinguished, the coding for CH shouldbe8.
RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

Cirrusatdifferentlevels, and cirrocumulus, may also be present.

Thecirrostratusinthisexampleisthinandfeatureless

Halonotdetectable.Anyvariationsinthethicknessofthe cirrostratusarenoticeablewhenthesunislowinthesky

CSBroomfield

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 2 7

CH8Cirrostratusneitherprogressivelyinvading theskynorentirelycoveringit(CloudGroupC2)
TheskycorrespondingtoCH8is characterisedbythepresenceofaveilof cirrostratuswhichisnot(ornolonger) invadingtheskyprogressivelyandwhich doesnotcompletelycoverit;theedgeof theveilmaybeclearcutorfrayed. ThecodefigureCH=8isalsousedwhen cirrostratusoccursinpatcheswhetherthey increaseinamountornot. Cirrusandcirrocumulusmayalsobe present,butshouldnotpredominateover thecirrostratus.

Cirrostratusnotincreasing.Thephotographontherightwas taken90minutesafterthephotographontheleft

Patchofcirrostratus

28

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

RKPilsbury

CSBroomfield

CH5Cirrostratusincreasingbutbelow 45elevation (CloudGroupC2)


Cirrostratusinvadingtheskyprogressively butwithitscontinuouspartstilllessthan 45abovethehorizonisthemain characteristicofCH5.Theremaybecirrus, frequentlyseeninbands,filaments,tufts,or resemblingfishskeletons,aheadofthe cirrostratus.Thecirrusmayhavedeveloped fromCH4.(Whensuchcirruspredominates overthecirrostratusatthesamelevelthe Ccodeis0.)Cirrostratusnearthehorizon maybemistakenforaltostratus,butthe slownesswithwhichitseemstomoveor changeitsappearancecharacterises cirrostratus.Itiswhitishthroughoutand differsfromhazewhichhasadirtyyellowish tobrownishcolour.

CSBroomfield

Bracknell Cirrostratus

CH6Cirrostratusincreasingandabove 45elevation (CloudGroupC2)


IfthecirrostratusofCH5continuesto invadetheskysothatitiscontinuousto morethan45abovethehorizon,without coveringthewholesky,thecoding becomesCH=6.Thecirrostratusgenerally growsdenserasawholeasitprogresses, stilloftenprecededbycirrusasdescribed underCH5. Thephotographontherightwastaken30 minutesafterthephotographontheleft.In theearlierpicture,contrailscanbeseen crossingthesky.Inthelaterphotograph,the trailshaveeithermainlydispersedorhave becomeobscuredbythethickening cirrostratus.Smallcumuluscloudscanbe seeninbothphotographs.
RKPilsbury

45

Totland,IOW CH5(left)developingintoCH6(right)

Cirrostratusnotcompletelycoveringthesky maybestraightedgedandclearcutasin CH5(top).Moreoften,however,itshowsan irregularborderasdepictedinCH6(left).

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 2 9

CH4Cirrusprogressivelyinvadingthesky

(CloudGroupC0)

Cirrostratusshouldnotbepresent, otherwisethecodingwouldbeCH=5or6 asthecasemaybe. Thecirruscloudsshowninthe photographsonthispageweresteadily invadingtheskyandhadanestimatedbase of20,00025,000ft.

Totland,IOW
Cirrusuncinus

Cirrusfibratus

Totland,IOW
Cirrusuncinus

30

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

RKPilsbury

ThecirruscloudsofCH4arethesame speciesofcirrusasthoseofCH1(page33), butwiththeimportantdifferencethatas CH4theyprogressivelyinvadethesky.They generallybecomedenserasawhole.They usuallyseemtofusetogetherinthe directionofthehorizonfromwhichthey firstappearedandtheforwardedgemoves towardstheoppositepartofthehorizon. Thecloudsoccurmostfrequentlyinthe formofstrandstrailingfromasmallhook ortuft,andlessfrequentlyintheformof straightorirregularlycurvedfilaments.

CH3Densecirrusfromcumulonimbus

(CloudGroupC0)

JFPGalvin

ThecodefigureCH=3isusedonlywhen theobserverisreasonablycertainthatat leastoneofthedensecirruscloudsinthe skyoriginatedfromthe upper part of a cumulonimbus. It may be possible to see this development if a watch can be kept on the sky (middle photograph). Such cirrus clouds frequently have hairy or frayed edges and are often in the form of an anvil. These clouds are sufficiently thick to veil the sun, obscure its outline or even hide it. In winter this form of cirrus can occur well below 20,000 ft. Other cirrus clouds may also be present.

Wokingham,Berks Cirrusspissatus

Reading,Berks

OvertheEnglishChannel

RKPilsbury

MKidds

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 3 1

CH2Densecirrus
(CloudGroupC0)

Thecirrusofthisspecificationfrequently occursinentangledsheaves(top photograph),orinpatchesthickenoughto appeargreywhenviewedtowardsthesun (bottomphotograph).Itdoesnotusually increaseinamount. CirrusofCH2mayalsooccurinnarrow bandswithsproutingsliketurretsor battlements(centre)andisthencalled cirruscastellanus.Anotherspeciestakesthe formofcirrusinsmalltufts,thelowerpart oftenbeingmoreorlessragged(centre inset).Thisspeciesisknownascirrus floccus. Cirrus of code figure CH=1mayalsobe present,butshouldnotpredominate. Ifanyofthecirrushasoriginatedfromthe upperpartofacumulonimbusthecoding forCH shouldbe3.Sometimesthecirrusof CH2developsintothickanvilshapeswhich couldbemistakenfortheCH3ofa decayingcumulonimbus.
Cirrusfloccus

Cirruscastellanus25,000ftbeneathother cirrusat30,000ft

Llandyrnog,Clwyd Base20,000ft

32

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

WGPendleton

RDWhyman

FNorton

RKPilsbury

CH1Cirrusinfilamentsorhooksnotprogressively
invadingthesky (CloudGroupC0)

Thewhite,delicate,hairlikecirruscloudsof CH1occurmostofteninnearlystraightor somewhatcurvedfilaments(top photograph).Sometimestheyareshaped likecommastoppedwithahookoratuft (middlephotograph)andinthisformthey arepopularlycalledmarestails.The elementsmaysometimesbearrangedina mannersuggesting a fish skeleton with a spinal column and filaments on either side like ribs. Cirrus may also occur in parallel bands, sometimes broad, which owing to perspective may appear to converge towards the horizon (bottom photograph). The height of the cirrus in the photographs opposite was at least 20,000 ft. The cirrus of CH1doesnotprogressively invadethe sky. This type of cloud often occurs with other cirrus clouds, but the high cloud should be coded as CH=1only whenthecombinedcoverofallfilaments, strandsandhooksexceeds the cover of all other cirrus clouds.

Cloudheightabout30,000ft

CSBroomfield

RKPilsbury

RDWhyman

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 3 3

Specialclouds

NACREOUSCLOUDS resemblepalecirrus orlenticularaltocumulusandshowvery markedirisation,themostbrilliantcolours occurringwhenthesunisjustbelowthe horizon.Theyaresometimescalled motherofpearlclouds.Theycanstillbe distinguisheduptoabouttwohoursafter sunsetasthingreycloudsstandingout againstthestarrysky.Inmoonlightthey maybevisiblethroughoutthenight.They havebeenobservedmainlyfromNorway,at altitudesbetween21and30km,and Scotland.Theyareignoredwhenassessing CH andC. NOCTILUCENTCLOUDS resemblethin cirrus,butareusuallybluishorsilvery, sometimesorangetored,orreddishwhen onthehorizon.Theyareextremelyrare, beingmostcommonlyobservedonclear midsummernightsbetweenlatitudes55 and65N.Theybecomevisibleatthesame timeasthebrighteststarsandappearmore brilliantaftermidnight.Theiraltitudeis between75and90km.Particlescollected byrocketsin1962providedstrong indicationsthatthesecloudsconsistofice crystals.Theyareignoredwhenassessing CH andC. CONDENSATIONTRAILS (contrails)formin thewakeofaircraftwhentheairis sufficientlycoldandhumid.Theyareoften shortlived,but,especiallywhencirrusand cirrostratusarepresent,theymayspread outandpersistforseveralhours.Persistent trailsarereportedbyusingtheCH code figuremostappropriate;sometimesitis impossibletodistinguishbetweenoldtrails andcloud. Theymayproducehalophenomenawith exceptionallypurecolours.OvertheUK theyrarelyformbelow28,000ftinsummer and20,000ftinwinter.Theymaycast shadowsonthincloudsbeneaththem. Aseriesofsuchshadowsmaybetheonly indicationthatthereismorethanonelayer ofcloudpresent.

Lyddington,Oakham

Pershore,Works

Contrails

Persistentcontrails

34

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

CSBroomfield

SJebson

RMBlackall

PFTomalin

Opticalphenomenaandotherfeatures

Halo

HALOPHENOMENA Thesmallhaloof 22radiuscentredonthesunormoonis seenmostfrequently(topphotograph).A whitehorizontallineatthesameelevation asthesuniscalledtheparheliccircleand thetwobrightspotsonthis are called mocksuns(parhelia).Mocksunsappear further from the sun when it is higher in the sky. The bright spot above the sun is part of an arc of contact. Pillars of light may appear vertically above or below the sun or moon (second photograph) and are most frequently seen at sunrise or sunset. These, coupled with a portion of the parhelic circle, may form a cross. A large, less bright, halo of 46 radius is sometimes seen, its arcs of contact perhaps showing strong colouration. Rarely other arcs may occur, but usually only part of the display is seen. Halo phenomena are usually associated with Cs, sometimes Ci. (Mock suns or pillars are sometimes seen in Ac.)

Sunpillar

RWMason

JAWalton

JHallett

CORONA A brownish ring of small diameter around the moon or sun. In strong daylight it may be easier to detect by observing the sun's reflection in calm water. Outer coloured rings with red outermost sometimes occur. Distorted coronae may sometimes occur when the moon is not full. Most frequently associated with Ac, but sometimes occurs with Cc, Cs, As, Sc, and St.

IRISATION Colours, predominantly green and pink, often with pastel shades, that sometimes appear on Cc, Ac or Sc. The colours may appear as bands nearly parallel to the margins of the clouds, or as a mosaic pattern.

Irisation

JFreeman

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 3 5

Opticalphenomenaandotherfeatures(continued)

VIRGA Trailsofprecipitation(fallstreaks) thatdonotreachtheearth'ssurface, attachedtothe undersideofacloud.Mainly associatedwithCc(smalltrails),Ac (pictured),As(may be clearly visible), Ns, Sc (especially at very low temperatures), Cu, and Cb.
RKPilsbury

MAMMA Downdraughtscansometimes causeudderlikeprotuberancestoformon theundersurfaceofCi,Cc,Ac, As, Sc (irregular and ragged), and Cb (bulbous, pictured). The protuberances may appear prominent when the sun is low in the sky.

SMOKE City smoke and industrial pollution causes the sun to look very red at sunrise and sunset and to have an orange tint when high in the sky. From a distance, such pollution may be confused with a bank of cloud on the horizon, but pollution generally appears lightgrey or to have a bluish hue.
WSPike

Primaryandsecondaryrainbows

36

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

Crowncopyright

RAINBOW Appearsonascreenof raindropswhentheobserverhashisbackto thesun.Alessbrightsecondarybow,with coloursequencereversed,sometimes occurs,withdarkerskybetweenthetwo. Theymaybeborderedbyfainterbows. Whenproducedbythemoonthecolours aremuchweakerorareabsent.The rainbowindicatesCborprecipitatinglarge Cu.

PJBNye

Jersey.Crepuscularrays

Crowncopyright

CREPUSCULARRAYS Thesetakethe formofpaleblueorwhiteraysdiverging from the sun when it is behind Cu or Cb. Sunbeams piercing small gaps in cloud layers (sometimes called 'sun drawing water') and shadows cast by clouds near the horizon at twilight are also called crepuscular rays.

LIGHTNING Cloudaccompaniedby lightningisreportedasCb.

RKPilsbury

SPOUT Anoftenviolentwhirlwind, revealedbythepresenceofafunnelof cloudbeneathCb,witha'bush'ofmatter raisedfromtheearth'ssurface.Thecloud andbushoftenmeet.Spoutsoccurunder newlyformedpartsofCb,notfromwhere therainisfalling.Weakspoutsare occasionallyseenbeneathCu.

Waterspout

Crowncopyright

VELUM Anaccessorycloudofgreat horizontalextent,closeaboveorattached totheupperpartofCuorCbwhichoften pierceit.PicturedwithCL9C9.

JFPGalvin

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 3 7

Otherclouds

Bigfiresmayproducedarkcloudssimilartolargecumulus. Combustionproductsmaybecarriedbythewindtogreat distancesandoccasionallycauseablueappearanceofthesun ormoon.Realcumulusmayalsoform. Volcaniceruptionsmaycauselargecumuluslikecloudsthat mayspreadoutatahighaltitudeovervastareas.Theskythen assumesapeculiartintwhichmaypersistforseveralweeks. Verylargeexplosionsareusuallyaccompaniedbyacloudof smokeordustabovewhichvelumisoftenseen. Industrialactivitiesmayalsoproduceclouds.Fireclouds, cloudsofsmokeordust,cloudsfromvolcaniceruptions,and veilsofcombustionproductsareignoredwhenconsidering thecodingforCL,CM,CH andC.However,realcumulusand cumulonimbuscloudsthatmayresultfromsucheventsare reportedintheusualway. Cumulusandcumulonimbusclouds producingshowersandthunderstormshave formedoverScandinavia.Interaction betweentheBalticSeaandland,heatinghas producedlargecumulusandcumulonimbus alongthesecoasts.

Appearanceofclouds
Whenthesunissufficientlyhighabovethehorizon,clouds indirectsunlightarewhiteorgreywhilstthosewhich receivelightfromtheblueskyarebluishgrey.Someclouds, whicharebrilliantwhiteinreflectedlight,showmarked contrastsinbrilliancewhenilluminatedfrombehind.The colourofthesunmaychangeasitapproachesthehorizon andcloudsinthevicinitymayshowacorresponding colouration. Theundersideofacloudmayreddenwhenthesunisonthe horizonasshowninthepictureofstratocumulus(right). Hazemaymakedistantcloudsappearyellow,orangeorred. Dustparticlesintroduceawhitetingetotheblueofthesky; thustheskyisofadeeperbluewhentheairhasitsoriginsin polarregions.
RKPilsbury

Cumulusfromapowerstation, cirrostratusonhorizon

Satelliteviewofclouds
JFPGalvin

ThispicturewastakenfromaTIROSNsatelliteduringthe earlyafternoonof12July1979. Thespirallingpatternofcloudsindicatesthecentreofa depressionsouthofIceland.Showercloudsofcumulusand cumulonimbus,organisedintostreets,followthestrong windsonthesouthernandeasternflanksofthedepression. Southwestofthedepressionthecumulusflattensinto stratocumulus.Thewidebandofcloudoffnorthwest districtsoftheBritishIslesisassociatedwithabeltofrain, withcloudpresentatalllevelsfromstratocumulus, altocumulusandaltostratusuptocirrus.Thecloudover northernFranceismostlydensecirrusandthickaltocumulus castellanusinassociationwithalowpressurearea. OvertheUnitedKingdom,landheatingovertheMidlands hascausedshallowcumulustoform.Somecirrusand altocumulusarepresentoversouthernEnglandassociated withthecloudoverFrance.OverWales,thenorthofEngland andtheSouthernUplandsofScotland,largecumulusclouds haveformedoverthehigherground.
Stratocumulusatsunset

38

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

UniversityofDundee

Cloudobservationsatnight

Theskyshouldbewatchedtowardsdusktoobtainsome guidance on the clouds which are likely to be present after the daylight has gone. When the sun is just below the horizon the lowest clouds look grey, clouds at medium levels look rosecoloured and those very high appear whitish. As nightfall approaches, mediumlevel clouds turn grey while cirrus and aircraft condensation trails turn yellow, then pink and finally grey. This colour sequence is reversed at dawn. After nightfall the sky should be observed from a dark place, well away from lights. The observation should not be made before the observer's eyes are adapted to the darkness. In moonlight, clouds are visible when the moon is more than a quarter full. All perceptible clouds appear black to grey, except those illuminated by the moon, which present a whitish appearance. Halo phenomena produced by the moon are always white. The colours of rainbows produced by the moon are much weaker than those produced by the sun and sometimes absent. When the moon is less than onequarter full there may be difficulty in identifying clouds at large angular distances from the moon. Their existence and approximate amount may be deduced from the blotting out of the stars, although stars near the horizon may be blotted out by haze alone. The difficulties are, of course, substantially increased if there is no moon at all. Observation of cirrus is then difficult, but if thick and extensive it may be noted by its dimming effect on stars. Cirrostratus causes slight diffusion of light around each star, whose brilliance is at the same time dimmed, but in the absence of moonlight it is almost impossible to differentiate between cirrus and cirrostratus. The brighter stars and planets are visible through thin veils of cirrus, cirrocumulus and cirrostratus. Altostratus is generally so dense that the stars are masked. The gradual lowering of a sheet of altostratus may be very difficult to detect, but as the base is rarely quite uniform, as it descends, small contrasts can often be discerned on all but the darkest nights. Nimbostratus usually develops from thickening altostratus. If, on dark nights, doubt exists regarding the choice of designation altostratus or nimbostratus by convention the cloud is called nimbostratus if rain or snow is reaching the surface. Nimbostratus is usually associated with moderate or strong winds and stratus with a calm or light wind, although this criterion alone must not be used as a basis for distinction. Fog formed over the sea and driven across the coast by an onshore wind may appear inland as stratus cloud. Its spread across the sky may be very rapid. The intensity of the darkness is of some assistance in deciding whether the sky is wholly covered or not with dense low cloud. If there is any light at all, variation of contrast may indicate patches of low cloud and medium or high cloud above. Near builtup areas, clouds may often be revealed by illumination from below, especially when snow is lying. Sodium street lighting often casts an orange glow on the base of the cloud. A layer of cloud so illuminated may provide a bright background against which lower fragments stand out in dark relief. Very low cloud may obscure known lights on hills and tall structures. The lights of lowflying aircraft, or when hidden by low cloud the noise of their engines, may give a clue to the cloud present. Where equipment is available to measure the height of the cloud base, the knowledge of the height of the base is also helpful in identifying the cloud types that may be present.

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 3 9

Distinguishingfeaturesofcloudtypes

Cloud Appearanceofsunormoon Ci Cc Onlydensepatchesmayveilorhidethe sun Usuallytransparentenoughtoshowthe position of the sun or moon Optical phenomena Halo phenomena may occur, but the halo circle is almost never complete Corona sometimes, but no halo phenomena. Occasionally irisation on the edges of the cloud, generally within 30 of the sun Halo phenomena generally produced which may sometimes provide the only indication of thin cirrostratus. Corona sometimes, but no irisation Corona or irisation often seen. Ac castellanus and floccus may sometimes show mock suns or a luminous pillar

Cs

Never thick enough to prevent shadows when the sun is above 30. The sun's outline will be visible, unless the sun is close to the horizon May be thin enough to show position of sun or moon, or these may be seen through spaces in the clouds. Sometimes thick enough to hide the sun or moon Thinner parts reveal the sun or moon as though through ground glass. Denser parts completely hide sun or moon. No shadows are cast Sun or moon always blotted out. In daylight the cloud appears as if illuminated from within Sun, moon, higher clouds or blue sky may be seen through gaps. Thin patches may show position of sun or moon. When dense, sun or moon completely hidden Usually so thick that sun or moon completely hidden. When thin, outline of sun or moon clearly visible without groundglass effect

Ac

As

Corona sometimes, but no halo phenomena

Ns

None

Sc

In extremely cold weather a halo may sometimes occur in virga beneath Sc. When the cloud is not very thick a corona or irisation is sometimes observed Corona may be produced when the cloud is very thin

St

Cu

Rainbow sometimes from precipitation

Cb

Rainbow sometimes. Lightning sometimes

40

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

Precipitation NonefromCi NonefromCc

RangeofcloudbaseoverBritishIsles Usually20,00040,000ft

Cloud Ci

Ifatanonaviationstationtheheight Cc cannotreasonablybeestimated,theBritish practiceistouseanominalheightof25,000ft, and35,000ftforanyhighercloud CsmaythickentobecomeAs Cs

NonefromCs

AlthoughusuallynonefromAc,very occasionallyrainorsnowmayreachtheEarth's surface(usuallyfromaltocumuluscastellanus)

Usually6,50020,000ft.Ifatanonaviation stationtheheightcannotreasonablybe estimated,theBritishpracticeistousea nominalheightof10,000ft,and15,000ft foranyAcorAsabove Altostratusmaythickenwithprogressive loweringofthebasetobecomeNs

Ac

Whenprecipitationreachesthegrounditis generallycontinuousrain,snoworicepellets; thedropsareofmoderatesize.Precipitation seldomreachesthegroundifthecloudbaseis higherthanabout10,000ft Usuallyrain,snoworicepellets,sometimes moderateorheavy Rain,snow,orsnowpellets;rarely,thenonly ofweakintensity.Drizzlemayoccur occasionallywhenthebaseoftheScislow

As

Usuallybetweenthesurfaceand10,000ft

Ns

Usuallybetween1,000ft*and4,500ftbut mayoftenbeobservedto6,500ft

Sc

Onlyweakfallsofdrizzle,rain,snoworsnow grains,butalongcoastsandinmountainous areasamountsmaybeconsiderable. Precipitationmayfallfromahighercloud hiddenbySt,thendarkuniformStclosely resembles Ns and may easily be confused with it Cu with strongly sprouting cauliflower tops may, rarely, give showers. In the tropics they may give abundant rainfall Usually showers or thunderstorms, often with squalls, sometimes with hail. By convention the cloud is called Cb if accompanied by lightning, thunder or hail

Usuallybetweenthesurfaceand2,000ftbut maysometimesbeobservedto4,000ft

St

Usually between 1,000 ft* and 5,000 ft, but may sometimes be observed to 6,500 ft. After initial formation, a rise in temperature often leads to a rise in cloud base Usually between 2,000 ft* and 5,000 ft, but may sometimes lower to near surface, or be as high as 6,500 ft

Cu

Cb

*At stations substantially over 500 ft above sea level, the base will often be less

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s 4 1

Notes

42

C l o u d t y p e s f o r o b s e r ve r s

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