Cloud Names

Recently, my son asked me what type of cloud was floating over our backyard.  When I mentioned it was a Cumulus congestus cloud.  He immediately came back with a response as to why does everything in science tend to have such difficult names.

Cloud names, like many things in science, are Latin based.  Latin, not being in wide use anymore, will not then, have words that will change meaning over time, making it perfect for any exacting naming convention.  The three principal cloud types are all based on Latin terms.  Cumulus means, heap or pile; stratus means spread out and finally cirrus means curl, or curl of hair (wispy).

When clouds have two characteristics the names are often combined, for example, cirrostratus or stratocumulus. The term alto, meaning high, is also used to describe these cloud characteristics at higher levels, as in altostratus or altocumulus.

If you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out the Cloud Appreciation Society on the web.