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Cloud formations have always been observed by people, many centuries before our time. People were always fond of clouds. They always wondered why some clouds were dark and others were white and fluffy, and why some clouds are so up high and others were so low that they looked reachable by the human hands.
The most recent classification of clouds was accomplished by the World Meteorological Organization in 1956. This organization lists 10 basic kinds of clouds that are subdivided into species according to their outer shape and inner structure. In addition, cloud varieties are discussed according to arrangement and transparency. There is a height classification which are called high, middle, and low altitudes. The different kinds of clouds are found in these three divisions according to the clouds’ altitude.
First, we have the high clouds that range in altitude from 16,500 to 45,000 feet. In this division we have the cirrus, cirrocumulus, and cirrostratus clouds. A cirrus cloud appears in delicate, feather-like bands that are not attached to each other, and is usually white with no shading. Cirrocumulus clouds appear like very small round balls or flakes. The cirrocumulus clouds sometimes form a pattern of a buttermilk sky. The cirrostratus clouds sometimes form tangled webs or thin whitish sheets. A large ring or halo is sometimes seen around the sun or moon when the cirrostratus covers the sky.
The middle layer of clouds range in altitude from 6,500 to 23,000 feet. The altocumulus, altostratus, and nimbostratus clouds are found in the middle division. The altocumulus clouds are more rounded and puffier than the cirrocumulus clouds. When people stare at the altocumulus clouds, they usually see a shape of an animal, usually an elephant. Altostratus clouds cover the sky with a grayish veil through which the sun or moon may shine as a spot of pale light. The nimbostratus clouds are the clouds that we can identify the fastest. These are the clouds that ruin our day. Nimbostratus clouds are thick, dark, and shapeless and that brings rain or snow.
The last height classification is the low altitude. These low clouds range in altitude from ground level to 6,500 feet. This division includes the last four kinds of clouds, which are: stratocumulus, stratus, cumulus, and cumulonimbus. Stratocumulus clouds are the large and lumpy ones that usually cover the entire sky. Stratus clouds are generally the shapeless clouds. They are dark in color and appear as streaks across the sky or as a gray layer hanging above the earth. Cumulus clouds range in size from small puffball-like to massive dome types. These clouds are the ones that often develop into thunderclouds. Cumulonimbus clouds, which are considered to be storm clouds are the ones with flat bases to their rounded domes.
Clouds are so hard to distinguish now a days. Living in L.A is the worst. You can’t tell if it is a group of clouds or just a big puff of smog. You really can’t tell which is which because the different kinds of clouds frequently merge with each other, making it difficult to tell them apart.
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