Cloud Classification

Clouds are classified according to their height, shape and thickness. The first person to give clouds names was Luke Howard in 1803. He called the familiar low, puffy clouds  cumulus. Flat, featureless clouds that cover the sky like a blanket are called stratus. The high, wispy clouds are called cirrus, which means hair in Latin.


Watch the skies and take some photographs of clouds. See if you can identify them using a book, Internet site such as the  Windows to the Universe or a cloud chart.  Why are clouds white? Clouds are full of dust particles as well as water droplets. When the sunlight hits them, all the wavelengths of light are scattered, making them appear white. The air of the sky, however, scatters the shorter blue wavelengths in the sunlight more widely, so that is the color we see.

© Roberta Gibson 2015