Tag Archives: Weather

The Types of Clouds

The Types of Clouds

Have you ever been watching the clouds move across sky and wondered what you were actually looking at? Do all the names of these clouds seem to sound the same? You are not alone, however, today we are going to alleviate this confusion. Clouds are normally identified by their elevation in the sky and their physical appearance. There are 10 major distinctions of clouds that will cover most patterns you see in the sky. Below are photos and descriptions associated with each cloud type:

Types of Clouds 1

Low Elevation Clouds

  1. StratocumulusTypes of Clouds 2

Below 6,000 feet

Stratocumulus are low lying, white, stretched, puffy clouds that may appear dark in places. These clouds are similar to your average cumulus cloud; however, they are much larger and can appear darker.

  1. Nimbostratus (rain)Types of Clouds 3

Below 6,500 feet

When you see nimbostratus clouds you are almost surely being rained on or will be rained on. These dark, thick clouds lay at mid to low levels because they are weighed down with water concentration.

  1. StratusTypes of Clouds 4

Below 6,000 feet

Like fog, stratus clouds lay very low in the sky and have very little structure. Stratus clouds are great movie days associated with mist, spit, or a light drizzle. Although stratus clouds look like fog, they are higher in the atmosphere, normally lining the horizon.

  1. Cumulus (fair weather)Types of Clouds 5

Below 6,000 feet

If you picture yourself having a picnick on a beautiful day. Now look up. If you are seeing clouds on this beautiful day, you are probably envisioning cumulus clouds.The classic white, puffy cloud with a rounded top and a flat bottom.

Mid Elevation Clouds

  1. AltostratusTypes of Clouds 5

Between 6,000-20,000 feet

Altostratus clouds are reserved for those hazy days when the dark blue-grey clouds seem to engulf the sky. Sometimes the sun or moon will shine through and appear fuzzy.

  1. AltocumulusTypes of Clouds 6

Between 6,000- 20,000 feet

Altocumulus are the classic cotton ball clouds. These puffy, white clouds are the most common mid-level clouds and sometimes signal that a storm is on the way.

High Elevation Clouds

  1. CirrostratusTypes of Clouds 7

Above 18,000 feet

Cirrostratus clouds are spread across the entire sky and almost seem transparent. This wispy cloud formation signals that there is warm weather ahead.

  1. CirrusTypes of Clouds 8

Above 18,000 feet

Cirrus clouds are extremely common year-round on clear days. At their high altitude, ice crystals are spread apart as if they are painted across the sky. Less widely spread as cirrostratus clouds and more

  1. CirrocumulusTypes of Clouds 9

Above 18,000 feet

Cirrocumulus clouds are similar to cirrus clouds in height, however, they appear more splotched than stretched. To elaborate, cirrocumulus clouds are groupings of packed ice crystals (cloudlets) that are more uniform than their sister cirrus clouds.

Both Low and High Elevation

  1. Cumulonimbus (thunderheads)Types of Clouds 11

Near ground level to above 50,000 feet

Cumulonimbus are the clouds most closely compared to what you would imagine a thunderhead would look like. These giant billowy towers are composed of water droplets in its’ base and ice crystals towards the upper levels. Cumulonimbus clouds almost always signal that there is a thunderstorm happening.

Web Sources




Living with La Nina

Here on Catalina our island is affected by a cyclical climate pattern known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.  Within ENSO three different climate events can occur – El Nino, a Neutral state, or La Nina. Typically these different climate events within the ENSO switch back and forth every 3 to 7 years.


For the past year Catalina has been undergoing the effects of El Nino.  Rather than having our normal cold water, El Nino has brought warmer than average ocean temperatures to the Pacific.  This warmer water has negatively impacted our kelp forest environment as well as all the animals that depend on it due to the rising ocean temperature.  They cannot withstand these warmer temperatures.  

However El Nino also brought more rain to our island.  This was extremely beneficial all throughout California since we have been in a pretty detrimental drought these past couple of years.  With this rain more plants, especially wildflowers, were brought back to life all throughout Catalina.

Weather 1Recently, we have been seeing a shift from El Nino towards La Nina.  But what is La Nina and how is it going to impact us on Catalina Island?

Weather 2La Nina is typically the positive phase of the ENSO because it is associated with colder than average ocean temperatures.  These colder temperatures are extremely beneficial to our Pacific ocean environment – especially for our kelp!  

However not all of La Nina will be positive impacts of our island.  La Nina will also bring drier land conditions to Southern California.  And these dry conditions will not be beneficial to Southern California or Catalina due to our current drought status.

At the end of the day El Nino means good for land, bad for ocean while La Nina means good for ocean, bad for land.

Sources: https://www.climate.gov/enso

Written By: Alex Feltes

Convection Deflection: Trade Winds and the Coriolis Effect

The trade winds are a prevailing pattern of easterly winds found between latitudes of 30 degrees North and 30 degrees south. They have long been known to explorers from the time of early trans-Atlantic crossings. This pattern is formed because sunlight strikes Earth’s surface at varying angles along the planet’s curvature.

Earth’s atmosphere responds to the sun’s uneven heating by flowing in vast, circulating beltways that create stable wind patterns. Equatorial regions receive more direct sunlight, creating a surplus of radiant heat energy that drives the convection of air masses called atmospheric circulation cells. We owe the predictability of regional surface winds to the turnover of these cells, which was exploited by early merchant sailors, leading to their designation as trade winds (also known as easterlies).

Three types of atmospheric cells exist on our planet, but only one is responsible for the trade winds: Hadley cells. Straddling the equator, Hadley cells cycle hot tropical air northward where they collide with the Ferrel cells of temperate latitudes. This convection is driven by the surplus heat of the tropics where infrared (heat) radiation exceeds incoming ultraviolet light. The initially hot, high-pressure air within Hadley cells rises into the upper atmosphere, precipitating almost all of its moisture, and moving away from the equator.

Upon reaching the mid-latitudes, this air has become sufficiently cool and dense to plummet towards Earth’s surface where it is split and rerouted towards the equator and the poles. This rerouted air creates currents of surface wind as the cycle is completed.

Why then do winds not drive due south? Earth’s steady rotation beneath its atmosphere ensures that as winds blow south they also move west against this rotation. This phenomenon, called the Coriolis effect, is the apparent deflection of air as it circulates north-south along Earth’s surface. Trade winds are a byproduct of this effect, flowing northeast to southwest in the northern hemisphere.

How Erosion Influences Toyon Bay

Here at Toyon Bay erosion is constantly taking place! Erosion, the process in which the earth’s surface is worn away, can be caused by a number of ways including wind, rain, crashing waves, and even humans.IMG_3489

As wind blows against the earth’s surface it slowly begins to wear the environment away as well as smoothes and polishes it down. Over time this wear and tear is carried from one surface to another. Here at Toyon wind can carry a number of substances including dust, sand, and soil.

Although rain is not a common sight to see on the island it is still an important factor that affects erosion. Rain will wash away bits and pieces of soil and rocks and carry them to new places. Water is also a huge contributing factor in how our coastline was even formed! As waves continue to crash against our shore they wear rocks down into smaller and smaller pieces until they are turned into grains of sand. Over time waves even contribute to pushing coastlines further and further inland.

IMG_3481Us humans are even contributing factors towards erosion! Human activity can sometimes speed up the natural process of erosion. As we continue to physically change landscapes we inadvertently cause erosion to take place. For examples the more trees and plants we cut down, the more soil we expose. As a result more and more soil begins to wash away, creating less stable land, and an increase in erosion.

Written by: Alex Feltes


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