Clouds are one of the most reliable predictors of weather when you are out backpacking. There are 10 types of clouds that you should be able to recognize, but if you get their names confused, just remember that the higher the clouds, the better the weather will be.
- Cirrocumulus Clouds look like ripples of water on the surface of a lake. They are a sign of good weather and often dissipate to blue sky.
- Altocumulus Clouds are fair weather clouds. They usually occur after a storm.
- Cumulonimbus Clouds are low thunder clouds that bring hail, strong wind, thunder and lightning. They have a characteristic flat, anvil-like top.
- Cumulus Clouds are easily recognizable, large, white, fluffy clouds. They indicate fair weather when they are widely separated, but if they are large and many-headed, they are capable of bringing heavy showers.
- Cirrus Clouds are high altitude, wispy clouds, seen in fine weather.
- Cirrostratus Clouds are made up of ice particles and form a halo around the sun. If a Cirrus filled sky darkens and turns to Cirrostratus it is a sign of rain or snow, depending on temperature.
- Altostratus Clouds form a greyish veil over the sun or moon. If they get darker and thicken, it is a sign that rain is on the way.
- Nimbostratus Clouds form low blankets of cloud and indicate rain or snow, lasting for several hours.
- Stratocumulus Clouds can form a lumpy mass covering the entire sky and may produce light rain, but usually dissipate by the late afternoon or evening.
- Stratus Clouds are low clouds that form a fog like layer and may produce drizzle. If they form thickly at night and cover the morning sky, they will usually burn off and produce a fine day.
Photo Credits: Plymouth State Meteorology Program.
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