Can you name these clouds?

Do you know your cumulus from your contrails and your stratus from your shelf clouds? Take our quiz and test your cloud acuity!

Question 1 of 15

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What kind of clouds are these?

From the Latin “cumulo” meaning "heap" or "pile," cumulus clouds have clearly defined edges and generally flat bases. They comprise the classic puffy clouds.

Question 2 of 15

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Hole-punch cloud, fallstreak hole
Photo: H. Raab (User:Vesta) [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
What is this formation called?

These interesting clouds are also known as hole-punch or canal clouds. It’s believed that these holes are formed when clouds are inadvertently seeded with ice particles made by planes when cloud droplets are frozen in air as it flows around the propellers and wings.

Question 3 of 15

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Roll Cloud seen on January 25th 2009, in "Las Olas Beach" located in "Punta del Este" (Country: Uruguay, State: Maldonado)
Photo: Daniela Mirner Eberl [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
What kind of cloud is this?

These low, horizontal, tube-shaped beauties are a relatively rare type of arcus cloud. Roll clouds look like they are rolling, and are completely detached from other clouds. They are generally formed by outflows of cold air from sea breezes, but they can also occur in thunderstorm conditions.

Question 4 of 15

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nimbostratus cloud
Photo: Simon A. Eugster [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
What kind of clouds are shown here?

These dense, dark, low-level clouds are generally accompanied by steady precipitation. Because of the fog and falling rain commonly found beneath and around them, the cloud base is typically hard to determine. They are classic rain clouds.

Question 5 of 15

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What are these formations called?

Contrails (short for condensation trails) form behind a jet when the humidity is high and the temperature is cool, causing exhaust to mix with the air and condense into water droplets. These droplets freeze into snow-white particles behind the aircraft, forming lines that traverse the sky.

Question 6 of 15

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Lenticular clouds and Mount Hotaka from Mount Otensho
Photo: Alpsdake [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
What are these clouds?

These wild-looking flying saucer clouds are associated with waves in the atmosphere that develop when relatively stable, fast-moving air is forced up and over a topographic obstruction. That results in a downwind gravity wave, similar to the ripples made by throwing a pebble into a pond.

Question 7 of 15

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Stratocumulus clouds
Photo: Joydeep [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
What are these low clouds called?

Stratocumulus clouds are characterized by large, rounded masses, most often in groups, lines or waves and are usually fairly low — below 8,000 feet. They look a lot like cumulus clouds, but are larger and lumped together.

Question 8 of 15

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The formation of mammatus clouds over the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, in 2012.
Photo: Craig Lindsay [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
What are these cloud features called?

Mammatus are pouchy cloud structures and a rare example of sinking clouds. They are actually a supplementary feature rather than a broad type of cloud. While most often associated with cumulonimbus incus (anvil clouds), they can also be found hanging from altocumulus, altostratus, stratocumulus and cirrus clouds.

Question 9 of 15

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Shelf cloud. Varbla, Estonia.
Photo: Kristian Pikner [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons
This type of cloud is called what?

A shelf cloud is a low, wide, wedge-shaped cloud that is attached to the base of a larger cloud — usually a thunderstorm. They are the boundary between a downdraft and updraft of a thunderstorm and are thus found on the leading edge of a storm. Although they look menacing, they are not potentially dangerous like wall clouds.

Question 10 of 15

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What are these high-level clouds called?

Thin and wispy, cirrus are the most common form of high-level clouds, usually forming above 18,000 feet where there is little water vapor. They generally move from west to east across the sky and indicate fair weather.

Question 11 of 15

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altocumulus cloud gradient over the mountain in the evening
Photo: Jessah01 [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons
Can you name these middle-altitude clouds?

These middle-altitude clouds are recognizable as a layer or patch of cloudlets in the form of heaps, rolls or billows. They come in white and/or gray, generally with shadowed parts, and are often in wave patterns. They don’t usually produce precipitation, but can indicate an upcoming weather change.

Question 12 of 15

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What are these pretty clouds called?

Also known as mother-of-pearl clouds, nacreous clouds are a type of polar stratospheric cloud that form at high altitudes of 70,000 feet and more! They may be some of the prettiest clouds the sky has to offer, but alas, their presence encourages the chemical reactions that break down the ozone layer.

Question 13 of 15

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What kind of cloud is this?

Wall clouds are rainless clouds that extend down from the base of cumulonimbus clouds, caused by a thunderstorm's updraft as it enters the cloud. Wind shear causes the wall cloud to rotate, which causes funnel clouds and tornadoes. Unlike shelf clouds, which are at the front of a storm, wall clouds are usually at the back.

Question 14 of 15

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What are these wave-like clouds called?

Named after scientists Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, these rhythmic clouds are the result of wind shear and eddies between two layers of air with different densities and traveling at different speeds.

Question 15 of 15

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Virga falling from Altocumulus floccus
Photo: Bidgee [CC BY 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
What are these downward formations called?

Virga is the term for rain shafts or streaks of rain that fall from a cloud but evaporate before landing.