Ask Josh: Cloud Types

Do you know the main cloud types and what they look like? Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick shows you.

Today I'm talking clouds. We see them nearly everyday. Some are white and friendly. Others are thin and wispy, and some are very dark and produce severe thunderstorms. Jessica in Portsmouth, Ohio, sent me an e-mail recently, wanting to know the names of different clouds. She says she's very interested in weather, but just can't remember what the cloud names are.

Well, there are many different cloud types. I'm going to go over the main ones we see most often in our local sky.

The first main type of clouds are called cumulus clouds; they look like cotton balls dotting the blue sky. They're also referred to as fair weather clouds because they usually mean a nice weather day.

 Cumulus Clouds

However, when the atmosphere is unstable, these friendly clouds can grow into huge towers. We call these cumulonimbus clouds. Nimbus comes from the Latin word meaning rain. They look to me like a cauliflower. This type is associated with thunderstorms, bringing heavy rain and sometimes hail.

Cumulonimbus Clouds

The other most common rain-producing clouds are known as stratus clouds. These low clouds make the sky look all gray and produce more than just a shower -- usually a long period of steady rainfall or snow if the temperature profile is cold enough.

Stratus Clouds

Finally, one of my favorite types of clouds is cirrus clouds. These are very high, thin, wispy clouds. They form above 18,000 feet and are made up of ice crystals. They are usually an indication of a change in the weather.

 Currus Clouds

If you have a weather-related question for me, send me an e-mail to or post your question in the comment section below.  If you're lucky, I'll read and answer your question on First at Five and or here on my Ask Josh blog.  Thanks for reading! 

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