Hello, GLOBE Universe,
No need to be cloudy and confused with identifying clouds! There are easy questions that you can ask yourself to help identify what beautiful clouds you are seeing floating high above you.
I created a Cloud Identification Guide to step you and your students through identifying clouds. Here's a quick summary of the main questions. Inside the cloud guide, there are additional hints to help you tell the difference between similar looking clouds by using special clues.
- Is it raining? -- this is the first important question because there are two cloud types that cause rain. Rain falls from LOW clouds that are either Cumulonimbus (heavy rain with BIG droplets) or Nimbostratus (light rain with small droplets.
- Is it a high wispy cloud? -- this is a unique cloud unlike others with a unique wispy (like a horse's tail) that is a HIGH cloud called Cirrus.
- Is it a flat, layered cloud? Or a puffy, bumpy cloud? Or a connected layer of large, puffy clouds? -- this is an important question that requires you to categorize the cloud as either a layer of homogenous colored clouds (a "stratus" type cloud - go to number 4) OR a layer of puffy, bumpy, lumpy cloud (a "cumulus" type cloud - go to number 5). YET, there is a type of cloud that combines these which is a called a Stratocumulus cloud when it is a connected layer of large, puffy clouds.
- If you see a flat, layered cloud then go to number 4 below.
- if you see puffy, bumpy cloud then go to number 5 below.
- For all flat layered clouds -- You must differentiate between the heights of the clouds. You can use shadows on the ground to help you. Sun shadow is still present and the cloud appears fuzzy and thin - Cirrostratus (HIGH cloud). The disk of the sun is dimly visible - Altostratus (MIDDLE cloud). The sun is not visible and the sky is a homogenous gray color - Stratus (LOW cloud).
- For all puffy bumpy clouds -- You must differentiate between the heights of the clouds. You can use your outstretched hand to help you. The puffs are quite small and no larger than the size of your fingernail - Cirrocumulus (HIGH cloud). The cloud puffs are the size of your thumb - Altocumulus (MIDDLE cloud). The cloud puffs are the size of your fist with blue sky in between them - Cumulus (LOW cloud)
The Cloud Identification Guide should be printed DOUBLE sided on ONE piece of paper. I like to use Card Stock or Heavy paper to make it more durable. It is a foldable which requires you to fold the paper TWO times along the TWO solid lines to make it look like this:
Once you have completed these two folds, then you must make 3 scissor cuts on the dotted lines so that there are 5 flaps on the front of the guide for the 5 cloud key questions. It should look like this:
GLOBE friends have been kind to translate it into several languages as well. Here are pictures of teachers using the Cloud Guide in a recent workshop in Croatia. Thank you to Diana Garasic for translating the Cloud Guide to Croatian and using it with her teachers!
Below are links to these different versions of the Cloud Identification Guide.
Cloud Foldable based on Physical Characteristics through a Dichotomous Key approach:
Cloud Foldable based on Cloud Heights to align with the GLOBE Observer app:
Cloud Foldable in Croatian:
***** NEW ********* Muchas Gracias to Claudia Romagnoli ***** NEW *********
Cloud Foldable in Spanish:
Cloud Foldable (based on Cloud Heights) in Spanish: