So here are some of the most common different types of clouds for cloud spotting. The clouds are often categorised according to how high up they are in the sky. As you will see underneath cloud spotting may also help us a little with predicting the weather.
Under 6000 feet: Some of the clouds you will see in the lowest part of the sky are:
* Cumulus clouds (the pretty, fat, puffy, fluffy ones)
* Stratus clouds (more stretched out & flatter looking
* Stratocumulus clouds (which is a mixture of Cumulus & Stratus)
6000 – 20,000 feet:
Clouds in this middle layer start with the prefix ‘alto'. In this layer you may see Altostratus and Altocumulus clouds.
Above 18,000 feet:
High clouds start with the pre-fix ‘cirro'. High up the sky you may see Cirrus clouds. The strong winds in this part of the stratosphere may streak this cloud across the sky into elegant, delicate, feathery streaks and this may foretell unsettled weather. Cirrus is usually the highest cloud. In that part of the sky the air is very cold so that this cloud is made of ice crystals.
Also in this layer are Cirrocumulus clouds (nick-named ‘mackerel sky' because the tiny bits of clouds look like the markings on an adult king mackerel fish). This cloud often indicates moisture and possible instability, though probably short-lived, in weather. An old saying goes “Mackerel sky, mackerel sky; never long wet and never long dry”.
Other Clouds for Cloud Spotting:
* Don't forget my favourite, Cumulonimbus clouds which you can find from near the ground up to 50,000 feet. This is a big, puffy, fluffy, stretching upwards cloud.
* Nimbostratus clouds. This cloud may start near the ground and can reach up very high. This cloud often brings snow or a long time of rain.
* Mammatus clouds – often foretell severe weather. These clouds hang and bulge down from cumulonimbus clouds.
* Lenticular clouds – they form near mountains and look like flying saucers.
* Green clouds – often associated with severe weather. They appear green because the light reflects off green vegetation underneath for example from a large, green forest. In the USA these clouds may foretell storms that can possibly produce tornadoes.
Some cloud spotting enthusiasts even give a cloud a new name if it's one they've never seen and is not in any book or website, and they may proudly photo it and share it on a website with other cloud watching enthusiasts. See some of ours on this site and do email us yours if you would like to share them.