If you look up in the sky, you will see many different types of clouds. One of the most common of these is a very low lying, dark cloud called a stratocumulus cloud. When you see these clouds, you will think rain. But, there is a whole different story about them.

What are stratocumulus clouds?

Stratocumulus clouds are large, dark clouds that usually sit very low in the sky in large groups. They are somewhat puffy, but not nearly as light as a cumulus cloud, though they have the shape in common. They look very heavy, but really don’t often bring precipitation. They just look as if that is what will happen, but they really look much more threatening than they are.

Types of stratocumulus clouds

  • Stratocumulus lenticularis
  • Stratocumulus cumulogenitus
  • Stratocumulus radiatus
  • Stratocumulus castellanus
  • Stratocumulus translucidus
  • Stratocumulus undulatus
  • Stratocumulus lacunosus
  • Stratocumulus stratiformis
  • Stratocumulus duplicatus
  • Stratocumulus praecipitatio
  • Stratocumulus perlucidus
  • Stratocumulus virga
  • Stratocumulus mamma
  • Stratocumulus opacus

What height are stratocumulus clouds found?

These particular clouds are fairly low to the ground where clouds are concerned. Actually, only a few other types actually sit lower than these. They can be found at right around 8,000 feet above sea level. Airplanes will fly over the top of these clouds, but they are not the lowest – just pretty low.

Classification of stratocumulus clouds

Stratocumulus clouds are given their name from stratus and cumulus clouds. Stratus clouds sit low and cumulus clouds are very puffy. They are divided into several subtypes that fall into two major categories. Here are the two categories of these clouds:

  • Undulatus clouds are very wavy instead of puffy.


  • Cumuliformis clouds are more like cumulus clouds – puffy and pretty.

Both of these of course have many subtypes that will even combine features of each in different ways.

How are stratocumulus clouds formed?

These types of clouds are formed in a variety of ways, depending on the particular specific kind of this cloud that occurs. But, they are all kept at the fairly low level due to weak air currents. The weak air currents keep these clouds closer to the ground than most other types.

What do stratocumulus clouds look like?

These particular clouds are dark, heavy, and puffy. They look like rain, but don’t produce much of it at all. They just seem more threatening and they sit low, so they will seem gigantic to you. They actually look exactly like altocumulus clouds but sit lower than these. This can make them look a little heavier.

How common are stratocumulus clouds?

Actually, stratocumulus clouds are incredibly common in their many different types. Some specific types are much more common than others, and some are incredibly rare. On dreary looking days where you will hear people say “it looks like rain,” but actually doesn’t rain, you will find these clouds present pretty much throughout the day.

Where can I see stratocumulus clouds?

When you see a grey sky with no precipitation falling, you are most likely encountering stratocumulus clouds. In order to tell the difference between these and the altocumulus clouds that look the same, hold your hand up to the sky. If the cloud is the size of your fist, it is a stratocumulus. If it is small, then it is obviously higher up and an altocumulus cloud.

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