I am amazed at just how often I check the sky to see what the weather will be for next while. I know some people check the weather channel or local news channels to see what the weather people are forecasting, but I look to the sky. After so many decades of turning my eyes to the skies to see what is happening overhead, the observations have taught me what ‘reading the sky’ really means.
Blue sky with not a cloud in sight foretells a beautiful day with no rain. Gray sky usually means rain. Hazy sky says hot, humid weather and possibly thunderstorms. Dark sky brings a much higher chances of precipitation. Clouds are condensation which is the process of a gas or vapor changing to a liquid, water in this case. They contain minute water droplets floating in large congregations through the atmosphere. If the temperatures are below freezing higher up, the water freezes to become snow or sleet.
When clouds do appear, they can take different forms. There are four main categories of clouds:
Cumulus, which in Latin means heap. These are the big fluffy, white clouds that usually mean fair weather. These are the lowest clouds floating from the surface of the earth to about 6,500 feet high. If cumulus clouds grow vertically, they can turn into thunderstorm clouds.

Cumulus Cloud, by Pamm Cooper

Cumulus Cloud, by Pamm Cooper

Cirrus, means curl of hair in Latin. These are the high, wispy clouds above 18,000 feet.

Cirrus_clouds2 ed101.bu.edu
Stratus means layer in Latin. Stratus clouds are layer, appearing from the ground up to 20,000 feet. Stratus clouds make the sky look gray causing steady rain or snow fall.

Stratus Cloud, www.msstate.edu

Stratus Cloud, http://www.msstate.edu

Nimbus are rain or snow clouds in Latin.

Nimbus Cloud, ellerbruch.nmu.edu

Nimbus Cloud, ellerbruch.nmu.edu

Fog is a cloud that forms on the ground, reducing visibility and raising humidity levels.

Fog Cloud, msstate.edu

Fog Cloud, msstate.edu

And then there are the fun games you can play just watching clouds, and seeing pictures in the shapes. When is the last time you laid in grass on your back and saw a bunny in the sky?

bunny cloud, pals.iastate.edu

-Carol Quish