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One is in the cumulus family, while one is in the stratus family! These are Nimbus clouds. This type of rain is often produced by warm, humid air rising on thermals in summertime. CumuloNimbus clouds can drop a large amount of precipitation in a very short period of time. It could be sunny at 1pm, pouring rain at and Sunny again at 2pm. Here is a small cumulonimbus cloud: Notice how the cloud extends upwards with great vertical depth. But they often occur alongside sunshine and beautiful hot weather.


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Notice the rain coming out the bottom. Likewise, Nimbostratus clouds are simply stratus clouds that have become so big and dense that they drop rain. One of the big differences between nimbostratus and cumulonimbus clouds is that nimbostratus lasts a long longer. They stretch out to cover the entire sky as far as you can see. Here are two examples of cloud sequences indicating that bad weather is approaching. These signs can be seen anywhere from a few hours to an entire week before the storm arrives.

This entire process sometimes takes days to occur. The faster this progression occurs indicates how soon the rain will start and finish. There are of course other ways that systems develop such as when warm humid air is forced up over a mountain… but the same basic observation principles apply in all situations. Your 5 senses all have helpful things to tell you. Human beings have been watching weather for thousands of years leading to endless sayings and rhymes that can provide insight. This example from the book, Weather Wisdom by Albert Lee: Is a reference to the fact that in many parts of the world, the east wind is a really good sign of approaching storms.

Weird, Rare Clouds and the Physics Behind Them

Is a reference to the weather conditions that turn a sky red at sunrise and sunset. The real magic of cloud identification comes when you realize that different cloud types form at various levels of altitude. These different cloud levels play a HUGE role in helping you determine what kind of weather might be moving through over the next few days so you can start to predict the timeline of approaching rain or storms.

Both cumulus and stratus clouds exist at levels anywhere between feet and 60, feet… but there are subtle differences in the form they take at each different level. The examples of basic cumulus and stratus clouds I gave earlier both came from the lowest level of cloud cover. Medium level clouds occur anywhere in the range of to feet high. These clouds often tell you there is rain or snow is approaching, even though the weather might still feel gorgeous.

AltoCumulus are an indicator that an earlier cloud is being broken up by wind. This could have been a layer of stratus or cumulus just a few hours ago.

Similarly, Altostratus clouds also form in the medium level of altitude. Notice the layers spreading out from the horizon.

Mountain Clouds

You can also tell the wind direction by looking at the direction these clouds point. The important thing to remember here is that the particular layer where Altostratus clouds are forming indicates a shift in pressure. Cirrus clouds form at very high altitudes. So high that condensation happens in the form of ice crystals. Cirrocumulus clouds are high clouds that form in tiny clumps.

Cirrostratus clouds are high clouds that stretch out like a uniform layer of white. If you ever notice the highest levels of the sky becoming filled with cirrus clouds that spread out more and more… You might be witnessing the approach of a weather system. And did you guess it?

How To Predict Weather Using Clouds

One is in the cumulus family, while one is in the stratus family! These are Nimbus clouds. Because of their unique appearance, they have been brought forward as an explanation for some unidentified flying object UFO sightings. As air travels along the surface of the Earth, obstructions are often encountered. These include both natural features of the Earth , such as mountains or hills, and man-made structures, such as buildings and other structures. These disrupt the flow of air into "eddies", or areas of turbulence influenced by these obstructions.

Cirrus Clouds

When moist, stable air flows over a larger eddie, like those caused by mountains , a series of large-scale standing waves form on the leeward side of the mountain. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops below the local dew point , moisture in the air may condense to form lenticular clouds.


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Under certain conditions, long strings of lenticular clouds can form near the crest of each successive wave, creating a formation known as a " wave cloud. Lenticular clouds have been mistaken for UFOs or "visual cover" for UFOs , particularly in the shape of a "flying saucer", because these clouds have a characteristic lens appearance and smooth saucer-like shape; also, because lenticular clouds generally do not form over low-lying or flat terrain, many people may have never seen one before and don't know that they can exist.

Pilots of powered aircraft tend to avoid flying near lenticular clouds because of the turbulence of the rotor systems that accompany them, but glider pilots actively seek them out. The precise location of the rising air mass is fairly easy to predict from the orientation of the clouds. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Lenticular cloud Dramatic lenticular cloud formation over Harold's Cross , Dublin. National Weather Service.

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