As the drought worsens, more and more people are anxiously searching the sky, looking for some sign of rain. Does that cloud mean rain, or is it another fair weather friend? The 10 most common cloud formations are listed below. Match them up with their descriptions.

A. Altocumulus

B. Altostratus

C. Cirrocumulus

D. Cirrostratus

E. Cirrus

F. Cumulonimbus

G. Cumulus

H. Nimbostratus

I. Stratocumulus

J. Stratus

1. These clouds are also known as “mare’s tails” because of their wispy, feathery appearance. They are formed mostly at 25,000 feet or higher and are made of ice crystals.

2. These clouds are rarely seen. The, rippling, wavelike patterns they create are the source of the term, “mackerel sky.” Because they are so thin, they do not leave a shadow.

3. These high, flat clouds look like a gauzy veil. The ice crystals in these clouds often create a halo around the sun or moon.

4. These dense clouds often appear as gray or blue sheets. They may even look lightly striped.

5. These layers of puffy clouds are composed of water droplets, and may line up in rows. When that happens, the air is rising where the clouds are and sinking in the areas between the clouds.

6. These lead-gray clouds look like a low fog. There is little or no vertical movement in them, and as such, the most powerful precipitation they can produce is a fine drizzle.

7. These clouds are generally darker than all the others and are true rain clouds.

8. These low, lumpy clouds cover thousand of miles over the ocean and are being studied by those who are researching “greenhouse” gases.

9. Also known as thunderheads, these tall, layered clouds often produce violent storms.

10. These fluffy, cauliflower-shaped clouds often signify fair weather. Should they start to pile up, though, they can turn into storm-producing clouds.


1-E, 2-C, 3-D, 4-B, 5-A, 6-J, 7-H, 8-I, 9-F, 10-G