The High level clouds, generally above 6000m from the surface, belong to the Cirrus family. Cirrus is a Latin word that stands for a ringlet or a curling lock of hair. Commonly known as mare’s tail as they resemble the tail of a horse, the delicate and feathery cirrus clouds are one of the most common types of clouds that can be seen at any time during the year.
Instead of water droplets, they are composed of ice crystals, which give them a thin and wispy appearance. However, their wispy shapes are due to the currents of wind that twist and spread the ice crystals into strands. In one particular aspect, the cirrus clouds are different from any other types of cloud as they often turn to bright yellow or pink or red before the sunrise and also after the sunset and fed out much later than the other clouds. Apart from Cirrus, the other clouds in the family include Cirrocumulus and Cirrostratus.
Cirrocumulus clouds that usually form at about 5 km above the surface with small white fluff patterns that spread out for miles and miles over the sky are gorgeous among the others in the family. Resembling the ripples on the seashore, they form the so-called Mackerel sky as they can sometimes have a grayish colour which makes the clouds look a bit like fish scales.
The Cirrocumulus clouds come after cirrus cloud during the warm frontal system. They can mean cold weather, but they never generate rainfall, and they do not interact with other types of clouds to form larger cloud structures. Although the Cirrocumulus clouds exhibit features from the cumulus and cirrus clouds, Cirrocumulus clouds do not have any shading, and some parts of altocumulus clouds are darker than the rest of the Cirrocumulus clouds.
Mostly seen during the winter, the thin and white clouds that cover the whole sky like a veil are the Cirrostratus clouds. They can appear white or light grey. They are so thin that the sun and moon can often be seen through them. As the ice crystals in these clouds bend the light rays from the sun or moon, the refracting light produces a magnificent halo effect.
If they descend to a lower altitude, they may turn into Altostratus clouds. Nevertheless, the Cirrostratus clouds almost always move in a westerly direction, and their presence usually indicates rainfall within the next 24 hours.