Fortunately, being able to predict the weather is easier than one may think. Follows is some helpful information to get you started. It will no doubt wow, impress and keep you dry on your next family outting into the great outdoors.
Step 1: Categorization
Clouds are also identified by shape. Cumulus refers to a "heap" of clouds. Stratus refers to clouds that are long and streaky. And nimbus refers to the shape of "rain" because we all know what rain looks like.
Step 2: High Clouds
High clouds do not block sunlight.
High clouds include:
Step 3: Cirrus
By watching their movement and the direction in which the streaks are pointed, you can get a sense of which direction the weather front is moving.
Step 4: Cirrostratus
Step 5: Cirrocumulus
However, in the tropics, these clouds may indicate an approaching tropical storm or hurricane (depending on the season).
Step 6: Middle Clouds
Middle clouds often block sunlight, but not always.
Middle clouds consist of:
Step 7: Altostratus
Step 8: Altocumulus
Step 9: Low clouds
Low clouds block sunlight and can bring precipitation and wind.
Low clouds include:
Step 10: Stratus
Step 11: Stratocumulus
Step 12: Nimbostratus
Step 13: Clouds with vertical mobility
Clouds in this category include:
Step 14: Cumulus
Step 15: Cumulonimbus
Step 16: That's a lot of information. Now what?
Go outside and look at the sky. If there are no clouds in the the sky, then the weather is fine.
Assuming there are clouds in the sky, we now need to identify them.
First, determine if you can see the sun or moon through them. If you can, then you are looking at high altitude clouds. If the clouds are thick, then there is a chance of poor weather a day or two in the future. To determine when the storm will arrive, observe whether or not the clouds appear to be moving. If they appear stationary, it is a slow moving front and probably won't arrive for over a day. If they appear to be moving, then the change in weather will be there faster. You can tell which way the storm is traveling by the direction the clouds are pointing.
If you can not see through the clouds, chances are that you are looking at middle or low altitude clouds. First, determine which of the two you are dealing with by observing shape, color and other more obvious give-aways. Are they covering the entire sky? Then they may be middle altitude clouds. Do they appear to be grey with a blue tint or fluffy white/grey clouds with a lot of contrast between light and dark? If yes, then these are middle altitude clouds and you should prepare for rain within half a day.
If you answered no to any of those questions, then check for low-altitude clouds. These tend to appear low and often engulf mountains and buildings. If it looks like an elevated fog, expect drizzle (if it isn't already). If it is rows of low, dark, lumpy clouds, then the weather is otherwise okay, but watch for further developments. If there is a low, dark, grey sheet, then it's probably raining. If it's not, quickly go get your umbrella.
If your clouds are low, fluffy, and white like cottonballs in the sky, then the weather is okay. However, keep an eye on these for any vertical growth of the cloud upwards into the sky (turning into anvil shapes). These clouds can unexpectedly change from fair weather indicators into violent thunderstorms.