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Author Topic: Types of Clouds  (Read 4217 times)


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on: February 01, 2010, 11:04:35 AM
When painting landscapes, clouds form an important part of the scenery. Sometimes clouds can be so beautiful that they form a painting on their own. The problem is many people find it difficult to paint them effectively. Most times people tend to paint cotton wool clouds that look very unnatural, as though they have been pasted onto the sky.

Why don't the clouds look natural?

The answer is simple - you need to understand a bit about clouds before you are able to interpret them on your canvas. Without realizing it, clouds lend a certain mood to your painting depending on the type of cloud in the painting. Put the wrong type of cloud in and you will contradict the mood you are trying to create.

How are clouds formed?

No matter what type of clouds are in the sky, they are all formed in the same manner : There are different layers of air in the atmosphere. When a warm moist layer meets a cool layer, the warm air cools. If the moisture in the warm layer cools to below it's dew point it condenses onto dust particles, sea salt, pollution etc. to form clouds. The way the moisture condenses to form the clouds depends on the force (speed) of the wind, the temperature and altitude. These factors create different looking (types of) clouds.

Let's look at the different types of clouds we get and what they tell us about the weather.

There are three main cloud types : Cumulus, Stratus and Cirrus with prefixes that can be attached to their names to indicated what level of the atmosphere they are in :

Cirro - above 20 000 feet
Alto - between 6000 and 20 000 feet and
Nimbo (or Nimbus if added at the end) - tells us that it is a rain cloud.

Cumulus Family

Cumulus : Latin for heap or pile. These are probably the most painted clouds and the clouds artists battle to paint the most. They are the puffy cotton wool clouds that we all love to paint. You get small puffy clouds (Cirrocumulus), larger puffy clouds (Cumulus), broad puffy clouds that are flat on the bottom (Stratocumulus), medium sized puffy clouds (Altocumulus) and tall dark puffy clouds with thunderheads (Cumulonimbus). Cumulus clouds can be found at any height from near the ground to over 50 000 feet.

The size of cumulus clouds depend on the force of the upward movement of the warm air and of course the amount of moisture in the air. The large cumulus clouds form when the warm air is moving up very fast and can extend upward for hundreds of meters. Small cumulus occur in fair weather and the taller they grow the worse the weather is gonna get. When cumulus clouds develop thunderheads you better scoot off home quickly to unplug your modem as thunder storms are on their way.

Stratus Family

Stratus is Latin meaning 'to spread out' and these clouds are those blanket clouds that sometimes extend for many kilometers across the sky. Types of stratus clouds are stratocumulus (broad puffy clouds that are flat on the bottom), Altostratus (thin and sometimes have a 'ripple' effect) and cirrosstratus (thin, wispy and occur above the cumulonimbus clouds). Stratus clouds cause overcast days and the long steady rains we all hate so much as these clouds can stay in one place for days.

Cirrus Clouds

Lastly we have Cirrus (Latin for curl or tuft of hair) clouds. They form very high up, above 18 000 feet, and are thin, wispy and feathery looking. These clouds are so high that they are composed of ice crystals. When cirrus clouds are scattered in a clear blue sky you can dust off your swimming trunks and sunblock as the weather is going to be just fine outside.

Wow that was pretty technical, but you can see that it is pointless adding small cumulus clouds (Cirrocumulus) into a picture while trying to suggest an oncoming storm, you need to use tall cumulus clouds (Cumulonimbus) or stratus clouds.

Your homework now is to go outside and lay on the grass and spend the rest of the day looking at the clouds. Try and identify the different types of clouds and try and get an idea of their height too.   ;D
« Last Edit: July 27, 2014, 10:28:39 PM by nolan »


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Reply #1 on: July 23, 2014, 11:15:41 AM
 :thankyou: Nolan. This helps a lot.


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Reply #2 on: July 23, 2014, 08:48:47 PM


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Reply #3 on: July 25, 2014, 04:57:24 PM
One question. Is there suppose to be pictures of clouds? All I see is x in a square box.  :confused:

Nina  :flowers:
Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says. "OH NO, SHES UP!"


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Reply #4 on: July 27, 2014, 10:29:06 PM
thank you Nina, I have added the pics back O0

Tony (ASM)

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Reply #5 on: August 26, 2014, 05:13:15 PM
I'd forgotten what a great in-depth explanation of different types of clouds and their formation Nolan gave here.
Quite brilliant!  :clap:
''Don't spend life going forward in reverse, just glimpse the rear view mirror now and again then, focus on what lays ahead''.
(Tony. ASM 3rd July 2013)


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