Do Those Clouds Mean Bad Weather Is Coming?

clouds, rocky mountainsIf you are out hiking or camping in the Rocky Mountains do you know what kinds of clouds should be seen as a warning?  What kinds do you not need to worry about?

A lot of times that I am about to go for a hike I see some clouds on the horizon and wonder if that means a big thunder storm is coming?  It is hard to know for sure what to do unless you know your clouds.  Here are some of the ones you need to be concerned about and others that shouldn’t worry you.

How Many Main Types of Clouds Are There?

Scientists do a good job of organizing and classifying the natural world into ways that are easy to understand.  Scientists organize clouds into ten basic types – including cirrus, cumulus, stratus, and nimbus.  The type of cloud depends on what it looks like and where it forms in the sky (how high or low up in the sky it is).

Do All Clouds Mean Rain or Thunder Is Coming?

cirrus, clouds

A high, wispy cirrus cloud does not mean rain is coming.

No.  Cirrus clouds form high up in the atmosphere and rarely mean that rain is coming.

Stratus clouds also do not necessarily mean that rain is coming.  They can produce some sprinkles or drizzle, but generally will not turn into a big rain storm.

Which Clouds Are Signs Of Rain?

All types of cumulus bring rain.  Cumulus look soft and fluffy, and are sometimes look like huge cauliflower shapes.  There are many different kinds of these, some of which will also bring thunder.

Another kind of cloud that brings rain is a nimbostratus.  These form very low down in the sky and are often dark looking across the horizon.

The Two Types Of Clouds To Be Careful For

Keeping in mind that all cumulus clouds bring rain there are two main types that mean bad weather is on the way and you need to be careful.

clouds, nimbostratus

A nimbostratus cloud bringing rain.

Nimbostratus – these form in a  thick, dark layer very close to the ground.  You need to be careful for these since they can bring long periods of heavy ran or snow.

clouds, cumulonimbus,

A big, towering cumulonimbus cloud often brings thunderstorms.

Cumulonimbus – these are the big ones that often bring heavy rain and thunder.  They are very tall, towering over all the other clouds.