Cumulonimbus Velum

Above: Cumulonimbus Velum

Cumulonimbus Velum

Cumulonimbus velum clouds are a rare form of cloud and you may never see one. They are rain clouds, as is suggested with the name cumulonimbus, but they have a kind of undulating pattern, rather like a sail that wraps around the clouds. It can look a little like a veil that forms above the cloud.

What height are cumulonimbus velum clouds found?

As most cumulonimbus velum clouds are formed in the atmosphere at a relatively low level, these types of clouds can be found at less than 6,500 feet. However, cumulonimbus clouds are known as height clouds and they can extend up to a height of a good 35,000 feet or slightly more under certain circumstances. This is equivalent to the height of Mount Everest. That gives a small indication of the huge capacity that clouds have. No wonder the rainfall can flood out areas in a matter of minutes.

Classification of cumulonimbus velum clouds

There are a variety of different cumulonimbus clouds as follows:

  • Cumulus pannus
  • Cumulus velum
  • Cumulus congestus
  • Cumulonimbus tuba
  • Cumulus fractus
  • Cumulus pileus
  • Cumulus humilis
  • Cumulus mediocris
  • Cumulonimbus praecipitatio
  • Cumulus radiatus
  • Cumulus orographic


Although there are so many different formations of these types of cloud, in reality you will only see a small number of these.

How are cumulonimbus velum clouds formed?

Warm air rising into the atmosphere is greeted by cooler air. The condensation that then occurs creates what we know as clouds. These clouds contain water droplets that fall as rain. Sometimes, depending on the height of the cloud, the air is cooler still and the water will turn to ice or snow. The type of cloud that is created can be varied according to atmospheric conditions and can be influenced by wind speed, air temperature and other factors. These are also responsible for the shape, size and type of cloud formed.

What do cumulonimbus velum clouds look like?

The thick cumulonimbus velum clouds are puffy clouds and many people will spot these quickly enough, even if you are a complete novice. If you see these types of cloud with a kind of thin veil to the top of it then you will be looking at a cumulonimbus velum cloud. The velum is a different density to the ordinary thick clouds and it will be immediately apparent.

How common are cumulonimbus velum clouds?

Cumulonimbus velum clouds are very uncommon types of clouds, although you may be lucky to see one. They are quite spectacular as the thin, almost gauze-looking veil clutches around the thick cotton-wool type clouds.

Where can I see cumulonimbus velum clouds?

These types of clouds can be seen all over the world, although their occurrence is rarer than other types of clouds. There are so many varieties of clouds to see and it can be difficult to distinguish the subtle differences of some of the clouds, as they look similar to others. However, sometimes you can tell what kind of cloud you are looking at just because of the weather conditions.

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