Everything You Need To Know About Stratocumulus Clouds

While you might not recognize stratocumulus clouds by the name, I’m sure you’d recognize them in the sky. They’re extremely common clouds that range from a light gray to dark gray in color with a sky cover of primarily cloudy to mostly sunny.

You’ll be happy to know that if you see these clouds in the sky precipitation is uncommon so you won’t need your umbrella. 

Everything You Need To Know About Stratocumulus Clouds

Throughout this article, we’ll delve a little deeper into stratocumulus clouds, their descriptions and characteristics as well as the different species and varieties of these clouds, as well as similar cloud types. So without further ado, let’s jump right in! 

Description & Characteristics

Stratocumulus clouds are a combination of both stratus and cumulus clouds which is where they get their name.

These clouds look quite puffy and are usually found converged together similar to altocumulus clouds. In fact, they are comparable to altocumulus clouds in most ways except you’ll tend to find stratocumulus clouds hang lower to the ground. 

These types of clouds come in a wide variety of sizes, species, and varieties as well as having many different features. Stratocumulus clouds have more variety than any of the ten major cloud types.

So if you love cloud watching, you’ll have a great time while these clouds are in the sky due to their diversity and many different looks. 

Stratocumulus Cloud Species

There are 5 different species of stratocumulus clouds: 

  • Stratocumulus Castellanus – These clouds are in the shape of rising towers or turrets.
  • Stratocumulus Floccus – These clouds are small and puffy. They often look like ragged tufts. 
  • Stratocumulus Lenticularis – The clouds almost look like a spaceship or UFO, they are lens-shaped clouds. 
  • Stratocumulus Stratiformis – These clouds look like horizontal layers of fluffy clouds. 
  • Stratocumulus Volutus – These clouds are tube-shaped/roll-shaped longer clouds. 

Stratocumulus Cloud Varieties 

Of these species, there are then seven varieties of stratocumulus clouds. They are the following: 

  • Stratocumulus Duplicatus – These are multidimensional, layered clouds. 
  • Stratocumulus Lacunosus – These clouds are punctured-like clouds that have circular frayed holes in between the clusters of clouds. 
  • Stratocumulus Opacus – These clouds are nontransparent and will block or mask sunlight
  • Stratocumulus Perlucidus – These are clouds that are transparent via small gaps in the sky
  • Stratocumulus Radiatus – These clouds tend to form in lines or strips. There will be two strips that will be parallel to one another. 
  • Stratocumulus Translucidus – These clouds are usually transparent and you will be able to see the sun’s position through them. 
  • Stratocumulus Undulatus – These clouds will look and move similarly to waves. 
Everything You Need To Know About Stratocumulus Clouds (1)

Stratocumulus Cloud Supplementary Features

From there, there are also an additional six supplementary features of stratocumulus clouds that include: 

  • Stratocumulus Asperitas – These will look normal from above but you’ll notice the underneath moves in a chaotic wave-like motion. 
  • Stratocumulus Cavum – Here you’ll find a gathering of stratocumulus clouds with a fallstreak hole in the center. 
  • Stratocumulus Fluctus – These waves are shaped almost like curls. 
  • Stratocumulus Mamma – These are shaped like cow’s udders. The underneath of the cloud is lumpy and sac-like. 
  • Stratocumulus Praecipitatio – With these clouds, there is precipitation reaching their surface. 
  • Stratocumulus Virga – You will see evaporating rain strips coming from these clouds. 

Similar Cloud Types

Stratocumulus VS Altocumulus 

Altocumulus clouds are the cloud type that most resembles stratocumulus clouds and since they also share similar features, species, and varieties it is quite easy to mix them up.

The main difference between the two comes from the altitude of the clouds.

Stratocumulus clouds tend to be much closer to the ground than altocumulus clouds which usually makes stratocumulus clouds seem both darker and bigger than altocumulus clouds. 

Stratocumulus VS Altostratus 

You should be able to tell the difference between these two clouds as there tends to be a lot of detail in stratocumulus clouds whereas altostratus clouds are usually fairly uniform featureless clouds.

If the cloud you are looking at has accompanying clouds species then it won’t be an altostratus cloud. 

Stratocumulus VS Cumulus 

While both clouds are usually placed at around the same height, cumulus clouds tend to be singular clouds which should help you distinguish between them.

Stratocumulus clouds will usually be found in groups and very rarely will be seen as a singular cloud. These clouds do not share similar varieties or species either. 

Stratocumulus VS Nimbostratus 

The main difference between these two clouds is rain. It’s very rare that you’ll find stratocumulus clouds precipitating. Nimbostratus clouds rain often. They are also very uniform and featureless with no associated cloud varieties and species. 

Stratocumulus VS Stratus

You’ll see both of these clouds at the same altitude but you should be able to differentiate these clouds easily as stratus clouds are featureless darker clouds, while stratocumulus clouds have a  surplus of features. 

Final Thoughts

And that’s everything you should need to know about stratocumulus clouds, hopefully now identifying these cloud types should be much easier. So go ahead, go outside and see which species and features of stratocumulus clouds you can see! 

Andrew Capper