Clouds are found at different heights in the sky.
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Courtesy of Becca Hatheway/UCAR

Clouds are Found at Different Heights

The different types of clouds we see in the sky are located at different heights in the sky.

The high cloud group is made up of cirrus, cirrocumulus, and cirrostratus clouds. These clouds are made up of either ice crystals (but they are sometimes made up of water droplets). Ice clouds look wispier than water clouds.

The middle cloud group is made up of altocumulus and altostratus clouds. These are usually water clouds.

The low cloud group is made up of stratocumulus, cumulus, stratus, cumulonimbus, and nimbostratus clouds. These clouds are made of water droplets. Cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds can be very tall, with their tops as high as middle or high level clouds, but their bases are as low as the other low clouds.

For tips on how to tell how high a cloud is in the sky, look for clues on each cloud type page. Also, the same type of cloud will be at a different height in the sky at different latitudes on Earth. Check out the cloud heights by latitude page.

The clouds in the figure on this page are found in the troposphere, which is the lowest layer in the atmosphere and is where weather happens. This diagram shows the different layers of the atmosphere.

Last modified May 21, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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Cirrus clouds are the most common of the High Cloud group. They are made of ice crystals and have long, thin, wispy streamers. Cirrus clouds are usually white and predict fair weather. ...more


Cirrocumulus clouds belong to the High Cloud group. They are small rounded puffs that usually appear in long rows. Cirrocumulus are usually white, but sometimes appear gray. Cirrocumulus clouds are the...more


Cirrostratus clouds belong to the High Cloud group. They are sheetlike thin clouds that usually cover the entire sky. The sun or moon can shine through cirrostratus clouds. When looking at the sun through...more


Altocumulus clouds are part of the Middle Cloud group. They are grayish-white with one part of the cloud darker than the other. Altocumulus clouds usually form in groups. Altocumulus clouds are about...more


Altostratus clouds belong to the Middle Cloud group. An altostratus cloud usually covers the whole sky. The cloud looks gray or blue-gray. The sun or moon may shine through an altostratus cloud, but will...more


Stratocumulus clouds belong to the Low Cloud group. These clouds are low, lumpy, and gray. These clouds can look like cells under a microscope - sometimes they line up in rows and other times they spread...more


Cumulus clouds belong to the Clouds with Vertical Growth group. They are puffy white or light gray clouds that look like floating cotton balls. Cumulus clouds have sharp outlines and a flat base. Seeing...more

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