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Newcastle weather: Do you know the difference between a stratus or a cirrus cloud? As stormy weather hits the North East we look at different types of clouds that linger in the sky; As stormy weather hits the North East we look at different types of clouds that linger in the sky.

Byline: Sarah Jeffery

All the different sort of clouds

With stormy weather hitting the North East we're accustomed to grey and cloudy skies.

This week we saw the unusual cloud formations, mammatus clouds, over Newcastle which surprised many of our readers.

There are many different types of clouds that linger in the sky, which often prevent us from seeing the sun. But how many of us can name the individual clouds?

This year is the 150th anniversary of the death of cloud classification pioneer Luke Howard, whose fascination with the skies lead him to create the system of cloud naming still used today.

It is based on his book, The Modifications of Clouds, which named the various cloud structures he had studied.

Now The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has extended Luke Howard's classifications to make 10 main groups of clouds, called genera.

These are divided into three levels - cloud low (CL), cloud medium (CM) and cloud high (CH) - according to the part of the atmosphere in which they are usually found.Low Level Clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds - These are heavy and dense low-level clouds, extending high into the sky in towers, plumes or mountain shaped peaks. They are commonly known as thunderclouds, the base is often flat and very dark, and may only be a few hundred feet above the Earth's surface. Cumulonimbus clouds are associated with extreme weather such as heavy torrential downpours, hail storms, lightning and tornados.

Cumulus clouds - These are detached cauliflower shaped clouds usually spotted in fair weather. If they get bigger they can sometimes produce showers. The top of these clouds are mostly brilliant white when lit by the sun, although their base is usually relatively dark.

Stratocumulus clouds - These are low-level clumps or patches of cloud varying in colour from bright white to dark grey. They normally have well defined bases and some parts are much darker than others. They can be joined together or have gaps between them and can be present in all types of weather conditions, from dry settled weather to light rain and snow.

Stratus clouds - These are very low-level grey layers or patches of clouds with fuzzy edges. They are the lowest clouds and sometimes appear at ground level in the form of mist or fog. Stratus clouds are a fairly uniform grey or white colour and may be accompanied by drizzle, snow or snow grains.Mid-Level Clouds

Altocumulus clouds - They are small mid-level layers or patches of clouds - called cloudlets - in the shape of rounded clumps. These are white or grey, and the sides away from the Sun are shaded. Mostly found in settled weather, altocumulus are usually composed of droplets, but may also contain ice crystals.

Altostratus clouds - They are large mid-level thin grey or blue coloured clouds. Usually composed of a mixture of water droplets and ice crystals, they are thin enough in parts to allow you to see the sun weakly through the cloud.

Nimbostratus clouds - These are dark grey or bluish grey featureless layers of clouds, thick enough to block out the sun. These mid-level clouds are often accompanied by continuous heavy rain or snow and cover most of the sky.High Clouds

Cirrus clouds - They are are short, detached, hair-like clouds found at high altitudes. These delicate clouds are wispy with a silky sheen or look like tufts of hair. In the day time, they are whiter than any other cloud in the sky. While the sun is setting or rising, they may take on the colours of the sunset.

Cirrocumulus clouds - These are lots of small white clouds - called cloudlets - grouped together at high levels. Composed almost entirely from ice crystals, the little cloudlets are regularly spaced, often arranged as ripples in the sky.

Cirrostratus clouds -These are transparent high clouds covering large areas of the sky. They sometimes produce white or coloured rings, spots or arcs of light around the sun or moon that are known as halo phenomena. Sometimes they are so thin that the halo is the only indication that a cirrostratus cloud is in the sky.Other clouds

Mammatus clouds -These are some of the most unusual and distinctive clouds formations with a series of bulges or pouches emerging through the base of the cloud.They are usually formed in association with large cumulonimbus clouds, particular when these are forming large thunderstorms.

Noctilucent clouds - They are the highest clouds in the Earth's atmosphere forming above 200,000 ft. They are typically to faint to be seen, but occasionally become visible during twilight when the sun is below the horizon and the clouds becomes illuminated. They are usually bluish or silvery, but sometimes orange or reddish.

Funnel Clouds - They are a cone-shaped cloud which extends from the the base of a cloud towards the ground without reaching the ground. They are formed in the same way as a tornado building around a localised area of intensely low pressure and are typically associated with the formation of cumulonimbus cloud.
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Publication:The Chronicle (Newscastle upon Tyne, England)
Date:Dec 11, 2014
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