10 Neat Things About Clouds
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

July 25, 2021

1. Cirrus.

Cirrus clouds are located at very high levels, above 18,000 feet; these are thin, wispy and made up of ice. They look like streamers. Cirrus means “curl of hair”. Cirrostratus are high and milky, sometimes forming halos around the sun or moon. Cirrocumulus are the fleecy, high ones looking like small, white flakes.

2. Alto.

Alto are the middle clouds hovering between 6,500 and 18,000 feet. They are grey or blue-grey and made up of both ice and water droplets. They cover the whole sky and prevent light from shining through. Altocumulus are fleecy banks of clouds at mid level. Altostratus are dense and grey that veil the sun.

3. Stratus.

Stratus clouds are at the lowest levels, below 6,500 feet. Stratus means ‘layer”. Stratocumulus are banks of dark grey clouds in layers that resemble hair rollers. Stratus are evenly grey, often covering the whole sky and carrying light mist or drizzle.

4. Cumulus.

Cumulus means “heap”. These are the ones that float in the middle or lower levels and form vertical towers. They might look like cauliflower or fluffy cotton puffs. Cumulus are fair weather clouds, their bases located at 6,500 feet or lower. They are short-lived with a lifetime of five to 40 minutes.

5. Nimbus.

Nimbus mean “rain”, so whenever you see a nimbo or nimbus prefix or suffix on a cloud name you know it’s talking about precipitation.

6. Cumulonimbus.

Cumulonimbus are the rain or thunder clouds, charged with electricity and producing thunder and lightning. These lower and middle level thunderclouds are ready to burst with a payload of heavenly water.

7. Nimbostratus.

Menacing skies are filled with dark and threatening nimbostratus clouds, which are located at a low level below 6,500 feet. They are usually ready to drop a load of precipitation on the world, be it rain or snow.

8. A cloud by any other name.

Okay – that’s enough. I am bored with their names but if you are not, well there are about three-dozen-plus other descriptive names for specific formations. Some people clearly spend all their time with their heads in the clouds!

9. Why clouds are white.

They are white because their water droplets or ice crystals scatter the seven colours of the spectrum and therefore radiate white light to our eyes.

10. Elephant clouds.

Hindus and Buddhists believe that cumulus are the spiritual cousins of elephants, and in Iran, clouds are a portent of good things to come.

Dorothy Dobbie Copyright© Pegasus Publications Inc

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