If you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment, being able to predict the weather using the clouds is a skill that will prove useful. If you are capable to understand that a storm is coming your way without using an app on your phone you can rush to find shelter and stay dry for the day.
If you are forced to spend a lot of time in the mountains without access to modern technology you will learn that the weather can change dramatically and you will need to plan your actions accordingly.
You are enjoying a nice walk outside during a sunny day and the next moment a heavy down-pour comes out of nowhere. Being prepared for any type of situation means being able to read the signs that reveal what the future holds. For thousands of years man was able to make a connection between the clouds and the weather, and this is knowledge that has been passed on from one generation to another. Being able to predict the weather using the clouds is not something new and in fact, many believe that this practice is as old as humanity itself. Even more, scientists have created a universal naming system that aims to help the modern man in his quest to understand the weather.
In order to be able to predict the weather using the clouds it is important to understand the movement and the formation of the clouds as a clear signal to decide if you need to build a shelter or carry on with your adventure.
How to predict the weather using the clouds classification:
There are four major groups of clouds based on their structure and location: Cirrus, Alto, Stratus and Cumulus. These basic forms may be present simultaneously; they can evolve from one form to another and they can combine into various permutations as you will see in this article. Elevation is a predominant factor in classifying clouds and for example, Cirrus clouds occur only in the upper part of the troposphere.
The Latin name of these clouds has an unusual meaning (a curling lock of hair) and these are the highest forming clouds in the sky. They consist mainly of fine ice crystals and they have a fibrous structure and wispy streaks in appearance. Cirrus clouds drift rapidly across the sky being carried away by high-altitude winds. If these clouds spread across the sky, it is a clear sign that you will enjoy a fair weather. Cirrus clouds rarely gather together, but if the sky is covered with these clouds it indicates that a warm front is moving in. These clouds indicate a change in the weather, which occurs usually within a day.
Cirrostratus clouds are very thin high-altitude clouds that uniformly cover the sky in layers like a veil. The Latin name means layered curled hair and when forming, these clouds will give the sky milky appearance or something like a thin, tangled web. When these Cirrostratus clouds blanket across the sky, rain is on its way within a day or so.
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These clouds were named after a combination of cirrus, meaning curled hair and cumulus, meaning heap. They resemble white flakes, scales of a fish or lamb’s wool and are a large collection of layered Cirrus clouds. In tropical countries, when these clouds form it indicates a hurricane, while for other climates it is a clear sign that a cold front its coming.
These clouds are often confused with the Cirrocumulus type but they are quite different. In fact Altocumulus clouds have larger bundles of clouds, more defined and arranged in banks. The sky will look like being covered with a fleece blanket. These clouds form at a lower altitude and have larger bundles. Those that learned to predict the weather using the clouds know that Altocumulus clouds are the result of warm and humid days, and thunderstorms should be expected in the afternoon or evening.
The name of these clouds implies middle altitude layers and they can be noticed as dense sheets of gray or bluish clouds with a fibrous structure. These clouds will usually block the sun and it mean that rain is on the way.
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These are fog like clouds of greyish color that come close, but don’t touch the ground. They produce a fine mist that is affected by local air currents and can dissipate within hours. These clouds can cover the entire sky and due to high levels of humidity, they are known to produce short showers. They will start as fog in the morning and will burn off by afternoon producing a fine day.
These are clouds resulting after air turbulence and they form as a low layer of large lumpy masses, grey in color. They create rolls like patern with blue sky between them. Rain rarely occurs when these types of clouds form and when there is a small difference between the day and night temperature, it is a clear sign of a dry day ahead.
If you want to learn to predict weather using the clouds, you need to keep an eye on these clouds as they can develop into Cumulonimbus and produce severe thunderstorms. These clouds are usually high-piled clouds with a flat base and tops that resemble towers or cauliflowers. Most cumulus clouds are fair-weather clouds that are produced in dry conditions during the summer or a hot day. They can generate light showers, but if they build up forming cumulonimbus you should find shelter as quickly as possible.
These are the nasty ones and you can spot them as great masses of clouds rising and dominating the sky. They have an anvil shape at the top (the Greeks used to say that Hephaestus is hitting the anvil to create lightning bolts for Zeus) and they bring heavy rain, thunderstorms, squalls and hail. If you want to learn to predict the weather using the clouds, make no mistake when spotting Cumulonimbus as your integrity may depend on it. These clouds are enormously tall and are known to forecast extreme weather. You should prepare yourself for heavy rain or worse.
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These clouds are dense and they don’t have a distinct shape, forming a low layer of dark clouds that cover the sky. Once you learn to predict the weather using the clouds, you will notice that Nimbostratus clouds almost always deliver rain. They can last for several hours and in certain areas they also deliver snow.
The following picture shows all clouds and provides a better understanding of shape and altitude formation:
You don’t have to be an expert meteorologist to learn how to predict weather using the clouds and all you need is a keen sense of observation and a great love for the outdoors. As time goes by, you will be able to identify the various types of clouds and connect them with changing weather, just look at the sky!
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