More About Clouds

When you have learnt to identify the basic clouds, there are more to spot. Each type of cloud can have a variety of different variations. There are also some interesting weather features which are related to clouds. Remember to keep looking up to see if there is anything unusual in the sky. It is well worth having a digital camera with you at all times so that you can photograph anything unusual for later identification.

When you have finished reading about this you may want to return the Clouds page or Collecting Data.

Crepuscular Ray

This spectacular sight occurs when the sun shines through a gap in a dark cloud. The rays are also know as the 'fingers of God'. Take plenty of photographs so that you can choose the best as they are not easy to photograph.

crepuscular rays


Fog is in fact a cloud which is close to the ground. As you walk through fog you get wet, because there are lots of water droplets in the air.

trees in fog

Nacreous Clouds

These are beautiful and rare clouds are formed in the lower stratosphere. This means they are very high up and are made of ice crystals. They are often called mother of pearl clouds because the colours are like those on the inside of some shells. This photograph was taken after storms Gertrude and Henry in the UK in January/February 2016. It was thought there might be some link between the storms and the appearance of these clouds.



There are some amazing things to see in the weather. A J Taylor spotted the fogbow in the photograph from a ship at sea. The water droplets in fog are so small that they do not split the light into the clear colours of a rainbow. In a fogbow the colours overlap so much that the light appears whitish. See more about them at Weather Online.

a rainbow in the fog


Interesting cloud formations can be seen near mountains. This one is on Hout Bay in South Africa. The clouds look as if they are growing out of the mountain. Keep a special eye out for clouds if you are near hills and mountains.

Fallstreak Hole

This hole in the cloud is caused by frozen ice crystals falling downwards. It can be a very spectacular sight.

Virga seen from above

Taken from an aeroplane this photograph shows virga. This is any precipitation which falls from a cloud but evaporates before reaching the ground. In this case it is most likely ice crystals in this case. (photograph by Marion Parnell)

virga - ice crystals falling from a cloud


A sundog or parhelion is a bright light caused by the sun's light shining through the clouds in a special way. The actual sun is behind the building. The bright light is caused by a process is called refraction, which is a sort of bending of the light. This is a difficult thing to photograph as you should never point your camera at the sun.


These lines in the air are caused by passing aeroplanes. Often there are many of them in the sky. Look for places where the contrail stops and starts again due to the different conditions in the sky. The contrails can also spread out and make beautiful patterns in the sky.


A distrail is where an aeroplane's passing through a cloud has created a gap. It is the opposite to a contrail. If you see one, take a picture of it.

Clouds from Above

Aeroplanes can fly above the clouds. It is well worth having a look to see what types of clouds you can see. This view shows the cauliflower tops of cumulus clouds. This image shows a rather less common sight as the top of one of the clouds has lifted off making a cap known as 'pileus'.

a cluod viewed from above taken from an aeroplane

This is another view taken from an aeroplane. You can see that the clouds are not above the volcano on Gran Canaria. It gives an idea of the height of the clouds. These clouds are rather more broken up. They could be alto cumulus clouds. See them the same sort of cloud from below here.

You don't always have to be in an aeroplane to look down on the clouds. This photograph was taken from high up on Gran Canaria. To get here the person taking the photograph had to pass through the clouds. Here is it sunny, lower down it is cloudy. These clouds are like joined up cumulus clouds. They are stratocumulus. See the same sort of cloud from below here. You don't have to go abroad to look down on the clouds. This image was taken from Snowdon in Wales. In this picture some people are walking through the clouds.

looking down on clouds from a volcano

Variety in the Sky

There is not always the same sort of cloud in all of the sky. Sometimes, especially at the seaside, you can see a different sort of weather approaching. In the video clip, when you look to the right you see pleasant sunny weather. When you look to the left you see rain falling from dark clouds. If you see this check the wind direction to see what weather is coming towards you.

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Please Note

Please be conscious of any safety issues regarding these activities. When looking at the sky avoid looking directly at the sun, especially with optical instruments such as binoculars and cameras. Filters are generally not powerful enough to guarantee safe viewing of the sun.