You probably notice the difference between big, puffy clouds closer to you and thin ones higher up in the sky, but did you know identifying clouds correctly can help you predict the weather? This can be a great summertime activity for kids!

The image above is the official National Weather Service cloud chart.  It's organized by height with the lowest layer of the chart showing specialty clouds that don't fit in the height categories. 

How clouds help you forecast weather:

•When you see lots of contrails from airplanes but no other clouds in the sky, that often signals rain is a few days away.  It actually means a cold front will arrive in 2-3 days.

•Altocumulus clouds on a clear humid morning can signal thunderstorms later in the day. They often precede cold fronts, so they also sometimes signal the onset of cooler temperatures. A mackerel sky and mares tails can also signal an approaching cold front. 

Here are a few other pieces of "weather folklore" my grandma used to say:
  • Unusual clearness in the atmosphere, with distant objects seen distinctly, indicates rain.
  • Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.
  • Evening red and morning gray are sure signs of a fine day. Evening gray and morning red, put on your hat or you’ll wet your head.
  • If it rains before seven, it will clear before eleven.
  • Anvil-shaped clouds bring on a gale (because those are strong thunderstorms)
  • A cloud with a round top and flat base carries rainfall on its face.
  • When small clouds join and thicken, expect rain.
  • Black clouds in the north in winter indicates approaching snow.
  • If you see clouds going crosswind, there is a storm in the air.
  • Clouds floating low enough to cast shadows on the ground are usually followed by rain.
 

So with this information, what types of clouds do you see in the top image?

Answer: I see altocumulus on the left, cirrostratus on the right. Remember, cloud identification is somewhat subjective.  Not all answers are correct here, but there are a couple other options that could also be true! 

It's easier to pick out cloud types when there's only one type in the sky. It gets a little trickier when you are seeing more than one kind of cloud.  Since we are expecting several rounds of rain and a low pressure system this week, this is the perfect chance to try your hand at forecasting.  You can add your cloud type and weather observation if you have noticed other patterns using the links below to my social media pages. Happy cloud hunting! 

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-Hannah Strong

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