Cloudy with Cloud Identification Confusion?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
    1. If you see a flat, layered cloud then go to number 4 below.
    2. if you see puffy, bumpy cloud then go to number 5 below.
  4. 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).
  5. 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:


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thanks so much for sharing this useful resource!
Oh but is there a link to download the guide? I can't seem to find it.
I'm working on it, Rik! Hopefully I'll have an online link in a couple of days. Here is an older simplistic version of the cloud key. But it is still a good resource:
They are available now in Blog Post!
awesome thanks!
Muchas gracias!
Trataré de traducirlo al español para que puedan utilizarlo mis alumnas de la EESO 241 de Pujato (Argentina)
Muchas Gracias, Claudia!! I will gladly post here if you are able to translate one of the versions that best fits your needs!!
I absolutely love using this tool to teach students and teachers about how to identify cloud types. I've recently used the Cloud Dichotomous key with 4th graders and they loved the simple questions, relatable descriptions, and, of course, the flaps. I've also used it with K-12 in-service teachers, in combination with an activity sheet I made where students/teachers write down the clues to identify the cloud type. The teachers felt confident in how to identify the cloud types with this foldable dichotomous key!
Marile, could you post the activity sheet? I'm sure others would love to use it as a resource.
I wrote a blog about what I do in the classroom and added the files!
Good afternoon.
Salish immersion school just joined GLOBE. Thank you for the resources and ready for March cloud challenge.
Would be ok if students translate the Cloud Foldable into Salish?

Thank you for all the support
Oscar, I'm sorry for my delay!! YES YES YES, it would be awesome to have you translate to Salish. Please let me know when it is ready, and I will post here on blog for others to use as well.