Types of Clouds

Different types of clouds form at different altitudes and temperatures. Use the check boxes to explore the characteristics of each cloud type and the similarities and differences between them.

Appearance (texture)

Distance above ground

Other characteristics
Cloud Types

Source: NOAA | Cloud Classification and Characteristics

Rain or snow comes from low-level clouds. Check the "Low-level" box on the side to see related clouds.


Wispy, feathery, and composed entirely of ice crystals. They often are the first sign of an approaching warm front or upper-level jet streak.


More cellular (individual) in nature, have flat bottoms and rounded tops, and grow vertically


Uniform and flat, producing a gray layer of cloud cover which may be precipitation-free or may cause periods of light precipitation or drizzle


Form more of a widespread, veil-like layer (similar to what stratus clouds do in low levels)


Layered clouds permeated with small cumuliform lumpiness. They also may line up in streets or rows of clouds across the sky denoting localized areas of ascent (cloud axes) and descent (cloud-free channels).


"Strato" type clouds that possess a flat and uniform type texture in the mid levels.


Exhibit "cumulo" type characteristics (see below) in mid levels, i.e., heap-like clouds with convective elements.


Hybrids of layered stratus and cellular cumulus, i.e., individual cloud elements clumped together in a continuous distribution, characteristic of strato type clouds. Stratocumulus also can be thought of as a layer of cloud clumps with thick and thin areas.


Generally thick, dense stratus or stratocumulus clouds producing steady rain or snow

Cumulus congestus

A cumulus cloud that exhibits significant vertical development (but is not yet a thunderstorm)


Thunderstorm producing heavy rain. In addition, cloud electrification occurs within cumulonimbus clouds due to many collisions between charged water droplet, graupel (ice-water mix), and ice crystal particles, resulting in lightning and thunder.