Cirrus clouds

What Are Cirrus Clouds?

There are many types of clouds. Each one of them is different from the other and appears at a different altitude. Getting to know how clouds are classified helps you identify them when you see them in the sky. It can seem like something difficult, but that couldn’t be further from reality.

You can recognize which type of cloud you are looking at just by reading about it. That’s why you should read this article! Cirrus clouds are one of the most interesting types of clouds, so dive into this page to learn more about them!

Remember that you can always send this to a friend or relative to help them know more about clouds!

Cirrus Cloud Definition: What Are Cirrus Clouds?

Cirrus clouds are a type of high cloud. That means they form at a high altitude and are not that easy to notice if you don’t know about them. However, they tend to look different than other clouds because they form from ice crystals.

How Do Cirrus Clouds Form?

As mentioned before, cirrus clouds are made of ice crystals. Yet, everything starts with air and water. When dry air goes up, it makes water vapor turn into ice, forming the ice crystals that create cirrus clouds.

These clouds can also be formed by the vapor left by airplanes. That’s also one of the reasons why cirrus clouds only appear at high altitudes.

What Weather Is Associated with Cirrus Clouds?

Something interesting about clouds is that you can tell how the weather is going to be by watching them. That’s because some types of clouds only appear when specific circumstances are met. That helps you associate them with a type of weather.

Cirrus clouds form when air currents and masses get to high levels. That means that a weather change is coming, so if you see a cirrus cloud, have in mind that the weather may change at any time.

How Do We Categorize Cirrus Clouds?

Since there are many types of clouds, there are also subclassifications to them. That helps people understand them and study them in a better and easier way. Cirrus clouds are not an exception to that, so they are divided into five species.

Apart from that, cirrus clouds are considered high clouds. That means they form at high altitudes, which causes them to be formed by ice crystals.

Cirrus Cloud Facts

There are many things to know about cirrus clouds. As mentioned before, they are high clouds, so they only appear at 16,000 or above. Yet, most high clouds appear at 20,000 ft. All cirrus clouds are high clouds, but they may vary in species.

Cirrus clouds are white to light gray. They don’t tend to get other colors like other clouds that become yellow or red before sunrise and after sunset. These clouds don’t cause any precipitation, so rain doesn’t come from them but other clouds.

When studying cirrus clouds, people abbreviate them as Ci to make things easier. However, cirrus comes from the Latin term cirro-, which means curl.

Cirrus Clouds Species

As mentioned before, cirrus clouds are divided into species. Each one of them looks different from the others, so it’s important to know them if you want to learn how to recognize them. The five cirrus clouds species are:

Cirrus Castellanus

Cirrus castellanus clouds are often called turrets. That’s because they look like rising towers or big turrets from below.

Cirrus Fibratus

Similar to its name, cirrus fibrates clouds look fiber-like. You can also define its appearance as hair going one way since they are thin and tend to look like lines in the sky.


Cirrus Floccus

Unlike cirrus fibratus, cirrus floccus looks puffy and bigger than the previous cloud types. These species are similar to the clouds drawn in cartoons and things of the sort.


Cirrus Spissatus

These clouds sometimes lack a specific form. They can seem like a package holding different clouds. That’s because cirrus spissatus clouds are denser than the other species.

Cirrus Uncinus

Cirrus uncinus clouds are very similar to cirrus fibratus clouds. That’s because they are also thin and look hair-like. However, people can tell they are different because cirrus uncinus clouds are curved.


Cirrus Cloud Supplementary Features

Clouds tend to have supplementary features attached to them. That means that another cloud merges with their main body. Cirrus clouds are not the exception to that, so they have two supplementary features. They are:

Cirrus Fluctus

Cirrus fluctus clouds look like waves or curls. That makes them stand out from the rest of the cirrus species. However, cirrus fluctus clouds are not as common as the others.

Cirrus Mamma

These clouds are similar to cirrus spissatus clouds. The cirrus mamma tends to look like a package or sac that looks like cow udders.

Cloud Types Similar to Cirrus Clouds

Even though they are similar to other clouds, cirrus clouds have some things in common with other types of clouds. That happens the most if they appear at the same altitude. When talking about cirrus clouds, they have things in common with the cirrostratus and the cirrocumulus.

Cirrus and cirrocumulus clouds appear at the same altitude, so some people tend to confuse them when they try to identify high clouds. However, what makes them different is that cirrocumulus clouds are formed by cloudlets that form a bigger cloud while cirrus clouds look more fiber-like.


When talking about cirrostratus clouds it’s more difficult to tell which is which. That’s because cirrostratus clouds can look fiber-like, too. However, the best way to differentiate them is to see their color and shape. The cirrostratus clouds are more translucent and are often layered.


As you could see, there is a lot to know about cirrus clouds. All the different species and supplementary features have something that makes them unique, so it’s always an interesting activity to learn about them and try to identify them.

Yet, there is a lot more to know about clouds. Everything’s better when you do it with someone else, so try sharing this with a friend or someone close to you to get them started in the cloud world! That way you can keep studying with them and help them understand more things about clouds.

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