At a Glance: Cloud Types

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Clouds are classified by their shape and their altitude, or height above Earth's surface. 

All programs produced by: Space Telescope Science Institute, Office of Public Outreach
All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA
·       Cloud illustrations by Marc Lussier, STScI
·       Sea creature illustration copyright The National Library of Israel, Shapell Family Digitization Project and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, _Department of Geography – Historic Cities Research Project
·       Various cloud photos courtesy of Marc Lussier
·       Valley fog photo courtesy of Lucy Albert
·       Clouds time-lapse video courtesy of Ethan Alexander Cook
·       Photo of cumulus clouds over field courtesy of PiccoloNamek, Wikipedia
·       Towering cumulus cloud photo courtesy of Jim W. Lee
·       Noctilucent cloud photo copyright Jan Erik Paulsen 
·       Noctilucent cloud photo courtesy of P-M Hedén,,
Music courtesy of Associated Production Music
Written by Andrea Gianopoulos
Designed by Marc Lussier

Planet slowly rotates in galaxy full of colorful specks against the blackness of space. 
Text, at-a-GLANCE, CLOUDS. 
There are many different types of clouds. 
Several clouds of various shapes and sizes in a blue sky appear. 
Text, Clouds are classified by their shape and their altitude, or height above Earth's surface. 
Three layers of clouds labeled Low, Middle, and High. Low Clouds, Nimbostratus -- Stratocumulus, Stratus -- and Cumulus. Middle Clouds, Altostratus and Altocumulus. High Clouds, Cirrostratus -- Cirrus, Cirrocumulus, and Cumulonimbus. 
High Clouds. Cirrus -- Wispy feather-like clouds called cirrus appear high in the atmosphere. 
Layer of thin clouds over green land. 
Text, They are made of ice crystals and typically are thin and wispy. 
Cirrus clouds often reveal the direction of air movement at their altitude. 
A sky full of thick white clouds surround a volcano. 
Text, Low Clouds. Stratus -- Stratus clouds form in layers, and they can cover the entire sky like a blanket. 
Their bases can be just a few hundred feet above the ground. 
When stratus clouds form at ground level, they are called fog. 
Bright green land beside a body of blue water with a stretch of clouds above. 
Small patches of clouds throughout the sky. 
Text, Low Clouds. Cumulus -- Cumulus clouds have a flat base with rounded fluffy tops. 
Their heights depend on temperature differences between the rising and surrounding air. 
A large circular cloud in the shape of a disc. 
Cumulus clouds can develop into towering cumulonimbus clouds, which sometimes rise to more than 50,000 feet. 
When rising air reaches the bottom of the stratosphere—the second layer of the Earth's atmosphere—it is deflected by a warm layer of air and spreads the cloud outward, forming an anvil shape.