By: Meteorologist Courtney Steimann
Updated: Mar 21st 2019

Courtney's Cloud Corner: Low Level Clouds

After much discussion on high and mid-level clouds the previous weekends, this weekend we will discuss low level clouds. Low level clouds are distinctive as they tend to look much closer than other clouds. Low level clouds must be below 6,500 ft, but can grow vertically into the higher atmosphere. They primarily consist of water droplets with some supercooled liquid droplets. If they continue to grow vertically, the structure can change. Although, like the high level and mid-level clouds, there can be many different types of low level clouds. The main low level clouds that will be discussed today is; Stratus, Cumulus, and Stratocumulus.


  • Stratus clouds appear much like a blanket covering the sky. It's often known for its gloomy appearance since it has thin layers in the lower level of the atmosphere. Since the Stratus cloud covers the sky, sun light refracts away from our eyes giving it a darker shade. Though they might be dark and gloomy, they still won’t produce any precipitation that will reach the surface.
  •   Cumulus clouds are the opposite of Stratus clouds, as they have a white shade and are individualized. They can be seen in many different forms in many different layers. Cumulus clouds are formed from convection, and have the potential to grow vertically into a cumulonimbus cloud. Both Stratus and Cumulus clouds can further be discussed in Courtney's Cloud Corner: Cumulus Clouds and Courtney's Cloud Corner: Stratus Clouds.
  •  Stratocumulus has a combination between both the cumulus and stratus cloud, as they appear in a lumpy layered effect. They will transform into such when stratus cloud begin to break up. In essence, the layers of this cloud will be both thick and thin. When this cloud is present, usually a front has already passed through the area or will pass.
Stratus clouds with boat in background.
Stratus clouds are a gloomy and dark form of cloud that will thinly layer the sky.
Cumulus clouds over the mountains.
Cumulus clouds appear white, puffy, and spread out throughout the sky.
Stratocumulus clouds.
Stratocumulus cloud appear much like Cumulus and and Stratus clouds, with both thin and thick layers.