“I pointed out the different types of clouds and what they told of the weather to come. She showed me the shapes they held: a rose, a harp, a waterfall.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind, 2007, Chapter 33
Nephology, the science of clouds, categorizes different types of clouds depending on their distance from the Earth and on their shapes. For high-level clouds the prefix cirro- is used, with alto- used for mid-level clouds. Low-level and mixed-level clouds usually have no prefix. Sheets of clouds are called stratus clouds, stratus being Latin for “stretched and spread out”. Puffy clouds are called cumulus clouds, cumulus being Latin for “heap or pile”. By combining altitude and shape, this system provides categories and names for all the wonderful cloud phenomena in the sky. Based on this system, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) publishes its International Cloud Atlas. And something named “stratocumulus stratiformis” just has to be beautiful, right?