By: Meteorologist Courtney Steimann
Updated: Mar 9th 2019

Courtney's Cloud Corner: High Level Clouds

There is different heights at which a cloud can form; low level, mid-level, and high level. Each level usually produces a different type of appearance and structure of the cloud. This article will mainly be discussing the high level clouds. High level clouds start with “cirro-” in the beginning of the word. Most high level clouds have ice crystals and supercooled liquid droplets because they are form above 20,000 feet. There are several different types of high level clouds, but the main three that will be discussed is: Cirrus, Cirrostratus, and Cirrocumulus.


  • Cirrus clouds are the most common and notable clouds, as they appear wispy in the sky. They have been called mares tails mainly for this reason. As the wispy appearance resembles a horse tail whipping in the sky.
  • Cirrostratus clouds are a layer of high level clouds. This is unlike the cirrus cloud because it's like a blanket of clouds covering the sky, where cirrus clouds are thin and spread out. Although a cirrus cloud may form into a cirrostratus cloud as a warm front approaches. Some Cirrostratus can have such a thin layer that a halo  or ring can form.
  • Cirrocumulus clouds appear much like heaps of clouds in high levels. They do not cover majority of the sky like cirrostratus does, but they can appear in rows suggesting turbulent weather. Cirrocumulus clouds are formed at such high level they often do not produces any rainfall since it would evaporate before even reaching the surface.

Stay tuned next week, Courtney’s Cloud Corner will discuss mid-level clouds!


https://www.weather.gov/media/lmk/soo/cloudchart.pdf

Cirrus Clouds.
Cirrus Clouds or "Mares Tails" appear wispy in the sky.
Cirrostratus.
The Cirrostratus has a blanket coating the sky.
Cirrocumulus.
Cirrocumulus are spread apart with lumps of clouds.