Being able to predict the weather by observing cloud formations is a skill that is somewhat lost on us modern humans. Most of us can easily look at a cloud and see the unicorn or ice cream cones, but very few of us can look at clouds and see the approaching cold front.
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 can easily be broken into four categories. These categories are high clouds, middle clouds, low clouds and clouds with vertical growth.
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 form at 16,000 - 43,000 feet. Basically, these are the clouds that you only encounter on the top of really high mountains or at the cruising altitude of a jet airplane. Due to the extreme conditions at which they form, they tend to be comprised primarily of ice crystals.
High clouds do not block sunlight.
High clouds include:
Step 3: Cirrus
Cirrus clouds are white wispy clouds that stretch across the sky. By all accounts, cirrus clouds indicate fair weather in the immediate future. However, they can also be an indication of a change in weather patterns within the next 24 hours (most likely a change of pressure fronts).
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
Cirrostratus tend to be sheet-like and cover the whole sky. You can usually tend to see the sun or moon through them. Their pressence usually indicates moist weather within the next 12 - 24 hours.