July 2, 2022
  • July 2, 2022

Look at the sky: the clouds! – Now Habersham

By on January 9, 2022 0

Due to the wild weather fluctuations in winter, it is a good month to see many different cloud types. The atmosphere tends to be much wilder during the winter months over Georgia. In the last 2 weeks we have seen thunderstorms and snow. This week and next, we’re going to take a look at the different types of clouds you can see during these fun times.

Clouds are generally divided into 3 groups: low, medium and high. Low clouds form less than 6500 feet above the ground, average levels between 6500 feet and 23,000 feet and high clouds form between 16,500 feet and 45,000 feet. Very few cloud types develop above 45,000 feet due to a lack of humidity, but we’ll cover those that do later. Today, we are going to take a look at one group: high clouds!

All high clouds begin with the phrase “cirro” which was originally assigned by British scientist Luke Howard in 1802. They are then further divided into subtypes based on their composition, method of formation, and location. appearance.

High clouds are mostly ice crystals due to their height, and the most popular type of them is cirrus clouds. Cirrus clouds are common year round, but are more prolific in our region in winter than in summer. Cirrus clouds are very thin and usually occur well before cold fronts. They are generally considered a fair weather cloud, although they can form above thunderstorms when the updraft forces water above the storm. They appear thin and wispy and often result in stunningly beautiful sunsets.

By PiccoloNamek on English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1142092

Another type of high cloud is the cirrostratus. The term “stratus” is commonly used for all flat bottom clouds. Cirrostratus clouds are similar to cirrus clouds, but indicate increased humidity. They are common before cold fronts and often indicate that rain is coming soon. They are also the most common cause of halos around the sun and moon. There is an old tale of women that says the number of stars visible inside the halo is the number of days before it rains. As I mentioned earlier, these clouds almost always precede rain, so there is some truth to this story, although the number of stars inside has nothing to do with it.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=246913

The third type of high cloud is cirrocumulus. These clouds are mostly ice, but contain some supercooled water droplets. They are less common than the other two high cloud types and only form in patches. They appear as many thin, puffy clouds, all distinct from each other but very close to each other. Cirrocumulus clouds indicate instability in the troposphere that most often occurs upstream of a cold front. Much like their cousin cirrostratus, cirrocumulus clouds indicate that rain is most likely on the way. Locally, we also see them during the summer when pop-up thunderstorms occur.

These three types of high cloud occur during the winter in the Southeastern United States. They can almost all be seen before cold fronts and with cirrostratus and cirrocumulus clouds you can use them to forecast the weather without needing a phone app!

Check back next week as we tackle mid-level clouds!

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