Photo credit - Stu Reynolds

Photo credit – Stu Reynolds

Cloud of the Day – Stratocumulus

Stratocumulus is the gravel of the lower etage.* If meteorology were a landscaper, then it would be spreading stratocumulus all over the place. Stratocumulus is a kind of hybrid between the cumulus clouds, defined by vertical development, and stratus clouds, formed in horizontal layers, or strata. Stratocumulus forms in a layer, with minimal vertical development, but it bunches up a bit, giving it a somewhat cumuliform appearance.

stratocumulus-Jim-LeeThe specific heights of the three etages vary with location, being higher closer to the equator and lower closer to the poles. They also vary with the source of the definition. The ambiguity means I will be using the heights that I learned and worked with. Also it’s going to be in feet, rather than meters. The lower etage goes from ground level to 6,500 feet (all heights above ground.) The middle etage from 6,500 to 20,000 feet. And the upper (high) etage is over 20,000 feet. Stratocumulus lives in the lower etage, meaning the height of its base is below 6,500 feet.

If cumulus are the stars of the lower etage, then stratocumulus are the extras. While fair weather cumulus, towering cumulus and cumulonimbus get all the recognition, stratocumulus remains in the obscurity of ubiquity.

Photo credit: Nicholas_T / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: Nicholas_T / Foter / CC BY

* American National Weather Service definition of etages: “By convention, clouds are vertically divided into three etages (levels); low, middle, and high. Each etage is defined by the range of levels at which each type of clouds typically appears.”

The chance of precipitation from stratocumulus is approximately zero.


About arjaybe

Jim has fought forest fires and controlled traffic in the air and on the sea. Now he writes stories.
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8 Responses to Stratocumulus

  1. Laird Smith says:

    Does the ubiquity make the stratocumulus so usual that we just fail to take notice?

  2. arjaybe says:

    I think so. We just shrug and say, meh, it’s cloudy.


  3. emmylgant says:

    When you talk about clouds I float among them.
    It’s the difference between wishing you could meet a certain person spotted in a crowd and being introduced by a friend. Thank you.

  4. emmylgant says:

    I don’t know about antigravity, but antigravitas, I am pretty sure I have it covered. 🙂

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