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How To Tell The Weather By Looking At The Clouds

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Stratus: A usually featureless deck of clouds formed as slowly rising moist air hits cold air at low altitudes.   May produce light rain or mist, perhaps some flurries in winter.

Altocumulus:  a mid-level cloud that signifies rising motion.  Can be a sign of unstable air, indicating a potential for rain/t-storm development later in the day.

Altostratus: Simply a stratus cloud at higher levels.  If it produces any precipitation, it’s usually very light…often evaporating before reaching the ground.  Can be a sign of more widespread precipitation ahead.

Cirrocumulus: A patchy, upper-level cloud.  Indicates fair weather if it stays patchy; can mean rain ahead within 12 hours if these clouds become more widespread.

Cirrostratus: High, thin clouds made of ice crystals.  Light shining through these can form halos around the moon, and halos or sundogs with the sun.  Usually points to a lot of upper-atmosphere moisture, and can be a sign of an approaching storm system.

Cirrus: Thin clouds made of ice crystals.  Isolated, thin cirrus doesn’t do anything other than indicate the wind direction in the upper levels; thicker cirrus can be seen ahead of approaching storm systems…either fronts or individual thunderstorms.

Cumulonimbus: Also known as thunderstorms.  Large vertical clouds with flat tops that can take on an anvil shape.

Cumulus: Puffy-looking, lower-level clouds.  Indicate fair weather if they’re relatively flat; cumulus that grows more vertical is a sign of rising air that can lead to shower or thunderstorm development.

Nimbostratus:  A thick layer of cloud with continuously falling moderate to heavy precipitation.

Stratocumulus: Similar to cumulus clouds, but tend to be lumped close together.  A sign of only weakly rising air, but they can occur both ahead of and behind larger storm clouds.  Can also form as cumulus clouds fall apart.
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