Do All Clouds Produce Rain?

Did you know that not all clouds produce rain that strikes the ground. Some may produce rain or snow that evaporates before reaching the ground, and most clouds produce no precipitation at all

Clouds are composed of large numbers of cloud droplets, or ice crystals, or both. Because of their small size and relatively high air resistance, they can remain suspended in the air for a long time, particularly if they remain in ascending air currents. The average cloud droplet has a terminal fall velocity of 1.3 cm per second in still air. To put this into perspective, the average cloud droplet falling from a typical low cloud base of 500 meters/1,650 feet would take more than 10 hours to reach the ground.

When rain falls, we know from measurements that the drops are larger than one millimeter. A raindrop of diameter 2 mm contains the water equivalent of a million cloud droplets (0.02 mm diameter). So if we are to get some precipitation from a cloud, there must be an additional process within the cloud to form raindrops from cloud droplets.

Learning what clouds can tell us is a useful skill that will help decide if it’s safe to head out for a grand day on the water or weather a storm in port. The weather forecasts are very important, and so is a barometer, but you can also get a reliable gauge on your local weather if you think of the sky as something like the face of an emotional person whose moods are shown right on his or her face. 

Let’s now explore – Do all clouds produce rain. Reliable indicators are the changing shape and color of the clouds, which are created by the same natural phenomena that cause the weather itself: temperature and humidity. Here are some hints for predicting weather by reading clouds.

  • Isolated, wispy, or very high clouds are an indication of fair weather.
  • Crowded, dense, dark, and towering clouds indicate changing or worsening weather.
  • The sharper the edge of a thundercloud and the darker its color, the more violence it may contain. Don’t go below or near it.
  • If cloud color, shape, and size change, so will the weather.
  • As puffy cumulus clouds darken, enlarge, and become dark cumulonimbus clouds, expect squalls within two hours.

Do All Clouds Produce Rain – Types of Clouds

The most common types of clouds are divided into three categories according to their altitude from earth surface.

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Types of clouds

High Clouds (16,500-45,000 feet)

1. Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus clouds are delicate, feathery clouds that are made mostly of ice crystals. Their wispy shape comes from wind currents which twist and spread the ice crystals into strands.

Weather prediction: A change is on its way!

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Cirrus clouds

2. Cirrostratus Clouds

Cirrostratus clouds are thin, white clouds that cover the whole sky like a veil. These clouds are most commonly seen in the winter, and can cause the appearance of a halo around the sun or the moon.

Weather prediction: Rain or snow will arrive within 24 hours!

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Cirrostratus clouds

3. Cirrocumulus Clouds

Cirrocumulus clouds are thin, sometimes patchy, sheet-like clouds. They sometimes look like they’re full of ripples or are made of small grains.

Weather prediction: Fair, but cold. However, if you live in a tropical region, these clouds could be a sign of an approaching hurricane!

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Cirrocumulus clouds

Mid-level Clouds (6,500-23,000 feet)

1. Altocumulus Clouds

Altocumulus clouds have several patchy white or gray layers, and seem to be made up of many small rows of fluffy ripples. They are lower than cirrus clouds, but still quite high. They are made of liquid water, but they don’t often produce rain.

Weather prediction: Fair

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Altocumulus clouds

2. Altostratus Clouds

Altostratus clouds are gray or blue-gray mid-level clouds composed of ice crystals and water droplets. The clouds usually cover the entire sky.

Weather prediction: Be prepared for continuous rain or snow!

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Altostratus clouds

3. Nimbostratus Clouds

Nimbostratus clouds are dark, gray clouds that seem to fade into falling rain or snow. They are so thick that they often blot out the sunlight.

Weather prediction: Gloomy with continuous rain or snow.

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Nimbostratus clouds

Low Clouds (less than 6,500 feet)

1. Cumulus Clouds

Cumulus clouds look like fluffy, white cotton balls in the sky. They are beautiful in sunsets, and their varying sizes and shapes can make them fun to observe!

Weather prediction: Fair

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Cumulus clouds

2. Stratus Clouds

Stratus clouds often look like thin, white sheets covering the whole sky. Since they are so thin, they seldom produce much rain or snow. Sometimes, in the mountains or hills, these clouds appear to be fog.

Weather prediction: Fair, but gloomy

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Stratus clouds

3. Cumulonimbus Clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds grow on hot days when warm, wet air rises very high into the sky. From far away, they look like huge mountains or towers.

Weather prediction: Look out for rain, hail, and tornadoes!

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Cumulonimbus clouds

4. Stratocumulus Clouds

Stratocumulus clouds are patchy gray or white clouds that often have a dark honeycomb-like appearance.

Weather prediction: Fair weather for now, but a storm might be on its way.

Do All Clouds Produce Rain
Stratocumulus clouds

Conclusion: Even though there are clouds in the sky, it’s not necessary that rain is going to happen in next few hours. Different clouds mean different weather conditions. The shape of clouds are fairly good indicator in predicting rain or weather.

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Image Credit: Sky background photo created by mrsiraphol –

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