• Cloud name trail
  • Cloud name trail
  • Cloud name trail

Cloud name trail

The FSC Cloud name trail features the major forms of clouds seen across Europe.

This cloud guide is a practical outdoor tool for the identification of common cloud types. Use the flowchart to identify the different forms of cumulus, cumulonimbus, altocumulus, cirrus, stratocumulus and stratus.

Everywhere in the world the air in the atmosphere contains water vapour, most of which has evaporated from the oceans. Clouds and fog are composed of water droplets and/or ice crystals. These form when water vapour condenses.

As well as photographs of each cloud type, text on the reverse side summarises the major processes leading to cloud formation and precipitation. It covers the typical sequence of cloud types associated with the passage of warm and cold fronts. As a further aid to cloud identification, there is also a concise guide to the shape and appearance of each cloud type.

In essence the cloud guide classification is that proposed by Luke Howard in 1803. This is based upon the altitude and visual appearance of each cloud. Firstly Howard used the following four Latin words as the basis:

  • Cirrus – fibrous or hair like.
  • Cumulus – a heap or pile.
  • Stratus – a horizontal sheet.
  • Nimbus – rain-bearing.

Secondly Howard combined these terms as necessary, and used the prefix alto for medium altitude clouds. Hence more cloud types were identified such as nimbostratus, altocumulus and cirrostratus.

The FSC Cloud name trail was produced in partnership with the Royal Meteorological Society.