Cumuliform Names of Clouds

Above: Cumuliform Names of Clouds

Cumuliform Names of Clouds

Cirriform clouds are also referred to as cirrus clouds. They are atmospheric clouds that look like thin and wispy strands. Often, Cirrus clouds are called a mare's tail because they resemble bunched up tufts. Cirrus means curl in Latin which is why it looks like curly hair in the atmosphere. Cirrus clouds are colored faint gray and white depending on their composition and they are found in the upper level of the troposphere, mostly composed of ice crystals because of the coldness at this height. Thin and wispy cirrus clouds indicate fair weather while heavy ones are signs of a coming storm.

Cumulus Clouds

In Latin, cumulus means pile or heap. The clouds are named this way because of their puffy and cotton-like appearance. Cumulus clouds can appear separately or in clusters and these clouds are often in combination with other types of clouds and are precursors in the formation of other clouds. Such combinations signal a weather disturbance, instability in the high altitude, moisture, and a weather front. Cumulus clouds are part of the cumuliform names of clouds and they compose the larger category.

Some of the popular and most common cumuliform names of clouds are cumulonimbus and cumulus congestus clouds. Weather fronts can create cumulonimbus clouds and show signs that a severe storm, tornado, or hail is approaching.

Formation of Cumulus Clouds

Cumulus clouds form when warm air rises, until it reaches a certain level and then condenses. The process is called convection, where the air is warmer than its surroundings. As the warm air rises, it starts to cool. When the temperature reaches the dew point, water condenses and forms a cloud. The formation of a cloud will depend on the temperature of the atmosphere and if there is any presence of inversion. If the cumulus clouds form at the altitude where temperature is below freezing level then there will be some precipitation. But often, it is the temperature at the surface that will determine if the cumulus cloud will bring about some rain or snow.

At sea, cumulus clouds can look like spaced patterns and lines, and this can be due to the presence of trade winds. In between the spaces of the lines, the clouds are stronger and gusty winds are produced.

Cumulus Clouds for Forecasting

Clear cumulus clouds are bright and puffy, and they are good indicators of fair weather. If you look outside your airplane window on a fair day, you’ll be fascinated with how beautiful cumulus clouds are. On the other hand, cumulus clouds can also produce a rainy day when it gets thick, dark, and heavy. Cumulus clouds can become cumulonimbus clouds and are indications of severe winds, heavy rain, lightning, hail, thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Cumulonimbus Clouds

Cumulonimbus is one of the cumuliform names of clouds in the cumulus cloud family. It is characterized by tall, dense and towering vertical clouds. Cumulus means accumulated while nimbus means rain in Latin so obviously, this type of cloud will be seen if there is atmospheric instability or if a cold front is approaching. Cumulonimbus clouds create lightning and can even develop into supercells, which are severe thunderstorms.

The cumulonimbus cloud is vertical in formation so it takes the shape of a mushroom in the sky. Cumulus clouds usually form at 8,000 feet and can have its peak at 75,000 feet. Usually, it peaks at 20,000 feet on most occasions. Cumulonimbus clouds are known for its anvil shape, which causes anvil lightning. This type of cloud is the largest in the three regions in the atmosphere. In fact, other clouds look like miniature models in comparison even to small cumulonimbus clouds.

Cumulonimbus clouds produce heavy rain and can even cause flash flooding but these clouds can also dissipate in a matter of minutes. If it’s a hot day, moisture can evaporate quickly and then form another cloud on another area. This cycle causes thunderstorms to last for several hours, which then lead to flash floods.

Cumulonimbus clouds are very dangerous for aircrafts because of the severe convection currents that produce unpredictable winds. Small propeller plans will not be able to handle passing through cumulonimbus clouds and must fly around or above them. Larger commercial planes have radars so they can see if they will be passing through cumulonimbus clouds and thus have no problems avoiding it.

Cumulus Congestus Clouds

Another cumuliform name of clouds is the cumulus congestus clouds. These are towering cumulus clouds that form in the low and middle altitude. These clouds are formed through moist convection and their vertical formation is very apparent to the naked eye. These towering clouds have different subtypes and here are the cumuliform names of clouds:

  • Cumulus Congestus--These are towering clouds that serve as a signal for unstable areas in the atmosphere. It is characterized by sharp outlines and huge vertical formations. This type of cloud is taller than it is wide because of the strong updrafts. In the tropical regions, these clouds can reach as high as 20,000 feet. Once the cumulus congestus cloud is formed, it will later on mature into cumulonimbus clouds, which signal poor weather condition. What used to be a towering sight become smooth and fibrous-looking sheets in the sky.


  • Cumulus Castellanus—These clouds can be distinguished through the multiple towers arising, which indicate several vertical air movements. It is termed Castellanus is because of its resemblance to the shape of a castle. Once these clouds form, it indicates rain showers and thunderstorms.


  • Turkey Tower—The term is a slang name for individual towering clouds that form from a small cumulus cloud. Once they develop, they are very quick to fall apart indicating the breaking of the capping inversion.


Cumulus clouds can be a sign of a fair day but just to be sure, it will be helpful to take an umbrella with you when you see one. Being that you’re not a weather expert, you really can’t tell if the cumulus clouds will start to form into something else like the cumulonimbus cloud, which often signals a coming rain. The appearance will deceive you and you might end up getting stuck in the office because of the heavy thunderstorm that has arrived in your area.

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