Cloud classification

A cloud is a visible aggregate of tiny water droplets and/or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere and can exist in a variety of shapes and sizes.

There are ten main cloud groups known as genera. The genera are categorised as low, middle or high, according to the height of the cloud base:

In addition to the 10 main cloud types, an additional (low) cloud, Towering Cumulus, is observed and reported to the aviation industry due to its significance as a hazard and an indicator of extensive convection occurring in the atmosphere.

Towering Cumulus is a species of the Cumulus genera.

It must not be assumed that a particular cloud type can only occur within these heights ranges. Due to South Africa’s large size, there can be a large variety of cloud heights for each type depending on location, season and influencing air mass. It is common, for instance, for the base of ‘low’ cumuliform clouds to occur well above 8500ft inland of South Africa during the warmer months.

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