Genus Cirrocumulus Clouds

Above: Genus Cirrocumulus Clouds

Genus Cirrocumulus Clouds

There are so many kinds and types of clouds. Meteorologists and cloud aficionados are able to distinguish them all. However, ordinary people may have difficulty determining their names. Genus cirrocumulus clouds are one of the three high altitude clouds, and they include cirrus and cirrostratus clouds. Cirrocumulus clouds are made up of ice crystals but they also have water droplets composition. Sometimes, cirrocumulus cannot be distinguished from the altocumulus clouds. But they really are much higher than the latter and appear smaller if seen through ground observation. They are also colder than altocumulus clouds.

What Do These Clouds Look Like?

Cirrocumulus clouds look like small clumps. They are much smaller than cirrostratus clouds. They are more rounded and look like fish scales. In fact, when cirrocumulus clouds are seen in the sky, people call it the mackerel sky. They are white without a shade of gray and are, at times, transparent. They are rippled and may have silky, smooth or fibrous portions. They occur in sheets and patches together with other cirrocumulus clouds.

Their ability to reflect the red and yellow colors of the sun make them one of the most beautiful clouds to look at. They are able to reveal un-scattered rays of the sun during sunrise and sunset. It can be distinguished from the altocumulus clouds simply through its altitude, since the altocumulus clouds are at a level below cirrocumulus clouds.

Cirrocumulus Cloud Formation and Composition

Genus cirrocumulus clouds form through convection. These clouds are formed by cells of cool and warm air and sinking cool air pockets. These clouds let the blue sky show. They move across the sky in a west to east direction, similar to cirrus and cirrostratus clouds. These clouds also form when the air on the Earth’s surface is being forced to rise. The air cools on its way upward, and soon clouds will form.

The species Cirrocumulus lenticularis is formed this way. Cirrocumulus clouds are made up of ice crystals but there are also water droplets in the cloud. These droplets are in a supercool state and are relatively short-lived. It is the ice crystals that cause the water droplets to freeze and thus turns the cloud into cirrostratus state. When this happens, the cloud can produce precipitation in the form of snow or ice. They are slower in velocity compared to lower level clouds.

Cloud Transformation

Genus cirrocumulus clouds can also form when cirrus and cirrostratus clouds are transformed (i.e. cirromutatus and cirrostratomutaus). When altocumulus clouds decrease in size, they can form cirrocumulus clouds as well. Cirrocumulus clouds transform from one species to another. To illustrate, cirrocumulus floccus is formed from cirrocumulus castellanus.

Cirrocumulus clouds should be properly distinguished. While they may share similar features with other cloud types, they are best named as such when they have evolved from cirrus and cirrostratus clouds.

Species of Cirrocumulus Clouds

Like most clouds, cirrocumulus clouds have several species. Their appearance usually distinguishes them from each other, but their characteristics also differ.

  • Stratiformis- this type of cirrocumulus cloud means stretched out in Latin. These are very thin clouds and may have spaces in between them.


  • Lenticularis- are very smooth cirrocumulus clouds. They are shaped like almonds or lentils.


  • Castellanus- these clouds signify instability in the atmosphere. Its name means castle in Latin. They can turn into cirrocumulus floccus when there is instability in the atmosphere.


  • Floccus- the name of this cloud is derived from Latin meaning lock of wool. This cloud has a rounded head, ragged bottom, and appears to be of small tufts. They can produce virga, which is a form of precipitation but evaporates before reaching the ground.

Cloud Varieties and Features

Aside from cirrocumulus subspecies, there are also two cloud varieties, and these are:

  • Cirrocumulus undulates- shows one or two systems of cloud undulations.


  • Cirrocumulus lacunosus- shows a net or honeycomb figure. It shows regularly distributed round holes with edges that are fringed. It can be layered, patched, or sheeted.


There are also supplemental features of the cirrocumulus:

  • Cirrocumulus mamma- clouds of protrusions that are downward and bubble-like.


  • Cirrocumulus virga- precipitation that does not reach ground level because they evaporate above.

Cloud Combinations

Clouds can exist concurrently with other cloud types. For instance, cirrocumulus clouds can be found together with altostratus clouds. Sometimes, these two are interchanged when they are present together. It is best to observe cloud combinations during thunderstorms, because this is when several types of cloud converge, transform, and combine. 

Lenticular Clouds

Genus cirrocumulus clouds have a subspecies called cirrocumulus lenticularis. When these clouds are formed, a process called irisation can be observed. Bright colors are evident along the clouds’ edges. While these are stunning formations visually, they also have great use. They serve as warning for pilots who are flying into areas of severe turbulence. Pilots try to avoid lenticular clouds for this reason. But for those who are not quite knowledgeable, they might mistake them for UFOs.

There are two other types of lenticular clouds; altocumulus lenticularis and stratocumulus lenticularis. They are often found in uneven topography. The most complex lenticular clouds can be found in high mountain ranges like the Andes, Himalayas, and the Rocky Mountains.

Role in Weather Systems

Genus cirrocumulus clouds are formed by warm fronts. What happens is that warm air slides above cold air, thereby replacing it. For example, when the species cirrocumulus castellanus appears in the sky, it means there is instability in the atmosphere. Cirrocumulus floccus actually forms from cirrocumulus castellanus. In turn, it produces virga, which is precipitation that already evaporates even before reaching the ground.

Clouds play a role in weather systems and forecasting. Meteorologists study clouds to be able to understand the weather. They can determine if a certain cloud formation will bring a thunderstorm, cyclone, or even hurricane. Cirrocumulus clouds can indicate fair weather when they are thin and high in the sky. But when they are a thicker layer of cloud, it could mean that bad weather is on the way.

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