Everything You Need To Know About Cirrocumulus Clouds: High-altitude Cloudlet

There’s so many different clouds out there, as clouds form in a variety of ways.

This is because as you get higher, the air temperature drops and the convection currents create distinctive layers within the atmosphere, giving clouds different appearances depending on where it was formed.

Everything You Need To Know About Cirrocumulus Clouds High-altitude Cloudlet

But today we’ll be focusing on cirrocumulus clouds. 

Cirrocumulus clouds are thin cloud patches found high up in the troposphere and they are the only clouds in this range to have cloud heap characteristics.

There’s so many characteristics to a cirrocumulus cloud, and this is what this article will set out to do. We’re going to discuss the characteristics of a cirrocumulus cloud, some facts and then the different species of the cloud. 


Like we mentioned before, cirrocumulus clouds have such a high altitude in the troposphere, which means the cloud heaps take on almost a ‘grain of rice’ appearance.

If you see a cirrocumulus cloud, make sure you savor the moment, as they’re the least seen among the ten main cloud types.

If you do happen to spot a cirrocumulus cloud, there’s a strong likelihood that there are cirrus or cirrostratus clouds nearby and similar to altocumulus clouds, cirrocumulus clouds can take on a mackerel sky effect which almost resembles fish scales. 

Unlike cirrus and cirrostratus clouds, cirrocumulus clouds won’t usually produce sun halos, but you may see them produce iridescence or coronas from time to time.

It’s also worth noting that cirrocumulus clouds can’t be found in the fibrous form, and these are the only clouds found at high altitudes that can’t. 

Cirrocumulus Cloud Facts

You should already know from what we’ve mentioned previously that cirrocumulus clouds are mainly found in high altitudes of 16,000-49,000ft.

The name cirrocumulus derives from the latin name cirro-, meaning curl and cumulo, meaning heap, which is a perfect name for it, as it is the only cloud in this range to have cloud heap characteristics. 

If you see this cloud, you’ll notice that it has a white to light gray color, you’ll hardly ever see it darker than this. You’ll see these clouds on partly sunny to mostly sunny days, so if it’s sunny out make sure to get looking for a cirrocumulus cloud!

Its precipitation potential is virga only, meaning that trails of precipitation will fall from the underside of the cloud but it will evaporate before it can reach the earth’s surface.

It is also quite uncommon to see these types of clouds out, so if you see one, make sure to take a picture. 

Everything You Need To Know About Cirrocumulus Clouds High-altitude Cloudlet (1)

Cirrocumulus Cloud Species

Cirrocumulus clouds typically have four species associated with them: castellanus, floccus, lenticularis and stratiforms. 

Cirrocumulus Castellanus

The Cirrocumulus castellanus appear predominantly as round turrets that are rising from a sheet of cloud. 

Cirrocumulus Floccus

These clouds are typically very small cumuliform tufts, and the lower parts of these are more ragged. 

Cirrocumulus Lenticularis

These are smooth clouds that have the appearance of almonds or a lens. They often appear much like a UFO.

Cirrocumulus Stratiformis

These clouds are often big and horizontal. They are in the form of an extensive sheet or layer and will sometimes show breaks. 

Similar Cloud Types

Cirrocumulus VS Cirrus

Both of these clouds will be found at the same altitude, and like we mentioned earlier, if you happen to see a cirrocumulus cloud, you’ll tend to see a cirrus cloud in close proximity.

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two clouds is that cirrocumulus clouds contain puffy cloudlets that look like grains of rice, whereas cirrus clouds are fibrous and more wispy in nature. 

Cirrocumulus VS Cirrostratus

Again, both of these clouds will be found at the same height of altitude, and will usually be found in close proximity to one another.

If you’re unsure of what cloud you’re actually looking at, or the cloud is somewhat fibrous, you’ll most likely be looking at a cirrostratus cloud. Cirrocumulus clouds contain much more features than cirrostratus clouds, but the latter is more layer-like. 

Cirrocumulus VS Altocumulus

The altocumulus cloud and the cirrocumulus both share many of the same cloud species. The difference is that cirrocumulus clouds are found higher, so their cloud patches appear smaller.

Altocumulus clouds are much more commonly observed than cirrocumulus clouds and it’s not unusual to see an altocumulus cloud layer cover the entire sky.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you know a bit more about cirrocumulus clouds and their characteristics. It has some interesting facts surrounding it that provide a more in depth insight into the cloud itself, it also has a few different cloud species associated with them.

You’ll know it’s a cirrocumulus cloud if it looks like grains of rice in the sky and it’s a partly sunny day or a mostly sunny day. 

Andrew Capper