By Joshua Lim

What are Clouds?

Clouds are thick masses of suspended water droplets or ice crystals located in Earth's troposphere. Clouds are the cause of weather. Although most clouds are don't go farther than the highest part of the troposphere (about 7 km), some clouds, like the cumulonimbus, can penetrate to the stratosphere.

Other Types of Clouds

Cloud Prefixes

The prefix of a cloud affects its altitude and the weather it causes. Here is a list of prefixes and there meanings:

Cirro- Clouds with the cirro- prefix are usually high in the sky with cirrus clouds.

Alto - Alto means middle, so clouds with this prefix are usually located in the mid level.

Strato- Clouds with the strato prefix mean that it forms in the low level.

Nimbus- Clouds with the nimbus prefix (or suffix) usually cause heavy rain and storms.


This type of cloud starts low and goes very,very high. They begin as cumulus clouds in the lower troposphere, and stacks up with other clouds. The cumulonimbus usually causes heavy storms and sometimes even tornadoes. It is shaped like a very big anvil.

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Altocumulus clouds usually form in the middle level of the troposphere, hence the prefix "alto." These types of cloud are also "fair-weather clouds," just with a different altitude. They look like rows of white cotton balls lined up in the sky.
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Cirrocumulus clouds form high in the sky with the cirrus clouds. Just like the altocumulus, it is still a cumulus cloud with fair weather, just higher in the troposphere. They also look similar to altocumulus, except it is higher.
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Nimbostratus clouds are the same as stratus clouds, just with more extreme weather. Instead of light mist and drizzle, nimbostratus usually cause heavy rain and snow. Also, it has a dark gray color like a storm cloud.
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Altostratus clouds form in the mid level of the troposphere, hence the prefix alto. These clouds are the same as stratus clouds in every way except that they are much higher. It causes light mist and drizzle.
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Cirrostratus clouds form in the high level of the troposphere, near cirrus clouds. They produce light mist and drizzle and are the same as stratus clouds.
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Stratocumulus clouds are cumulus clouds that form in the same level as stratus clouds. They are the same as cumulus clouds, but lower in the troposphere. These clouds are a sign of "fair weather."
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