8 Types of Clouds – And The Stormy Weather They May Bring

Posted by Safeco August 11, 2015

How to Identify Dangerous (and Not So Dangerous) Clouds

It's not always easy to know, watching the ever-changing play of clouds across the sky, what it all means. Some of those ominous dark formations can represent a genuine threat. Others, not so much.

Following is a quick guide to what you might see when the weather is unsettled to help you decide whether to seek shelter or enjoy the show.

Cumulonimbus Cloud

1. Cumulonimbus

Often resembling cauliflower and sometimes referred to as a “thunderhead,” these clouds experience rapid vertical growth when a thunderstorm is maturing. Severe weather, including rain, lightning, wind and hail, may follow.


Anvil Cloud

2. Anvil

When the warm air of the stratosphere prevents cumulonimbus clouds from further vertical growth, anvil clouds form. Looks aren’t their only dramatic aspect. Anvil clouds can stretch up to hundreds of miles from the storm’s center and bring lightning along with them.


Wall Cloud

3. Wall

Wall clouds, also known as pedestal clouds, form below a thunderstorm, signifying a strong updraft that could result in rotation. Wall clouds don't always rotate, but, when they do, they can signal the presence of a very violent storm, including a developing tornado.


Shelf Cloud

4. Shelf

Shelf clouds form at the leading edge of a thunderstorm, as cold winds flow downward and outward. They often resemble waves, with a smooth outer surface and a turbulent, unsettled look underneath. Shelf clouds aren't dangerous in themselves, but be ready for strong winds in the vicinity if you see one.


Scud Cloud

5. Scud

Scud clouds hang vertically beneath cumulonimbus, the result of rain-cooled air interacting with warmer air ahead of the storm. Sometimes mistaken for funnel clouds or even tornadoes, they are completely harmless. They don't rotate and have a ragged appearance.


Mammatus Cloud

6. Mammatus

These picturesque rounded, smooth clouds develop in a turbulent atmosphere and are often seen below thunderstorm anvils, although they can also form beneath less severe thunderstorm clouds. They are associated with but do not produce severe conditions.


Asperatus Cloud

7. Asperatus

An abundance of heat in the atmosphere and the interaction of very moist air with very dry air produces the dramatic, rolling formations of asperatus clouds. Their darkness is likely due to the large amount of water vapor, but they aren't necessarily accompanied by stormy weather.



8. Funnel Clouds and Tornadoes

It's not hard to recognize these rotating columns of air. Funnel clouds, visible due to condensation, are columns that don't reach the ground. Treat them as if they were tornadoes and take shelter, however, because they can touch down at any time. When they do, you may hear a roaring similar to a railroad train. That’s the sound of a tornado, one of nature’s fiercest forces.

Now that you know a little bit about storm clouds, it’s also important to know what types of storm damage your home insurance and even your car insurance covers. Your local independent insurance agent can help you understand your policies and adjust them for wider coverage, if desired.


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