Volutus Cloud Species: Tube-Shaped Roll Cloud

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Definition: A species of stratocumulus or altocumulus cloud widely known as a roll cloud

Description & Characteristics. More widely known by weather hobbyists as roll clouds, the ‘volutus’ cloud species is found in only altocumulus and stratocumulus cloud types. Translated from latin meaning revolve, their cloud abbreviations can be respectively written as ‘Ac vol’ and ‘Sc vol’. Clouds of the volutus species look almost like horizontal tubes. Though they’re generally harmless, really well-defined examples of roll clouds can catch a lot of attention on social media for their bizarre and ominous appearance.

Volutus cloud formations are very uncommon, but as a cloud species, they’re found much more often as stratocumulus clouds compared to altocumulus clouds, making altocumulus volutus clouds especially rare. It’s important to note that the volutus cloud species is often confused with the arcus cloud feature, more commonly known as a shelf cloud. The main difference between a roll cloud and a shelf cloud is that a roll cloud is a standalone cloud, where a shelf cloud is always attached to the base of a cumulonimbus or cumulus cloud.

Morning glory clouds are an especially exaggerated version of a stratocumulus volutus cloud. Morning glory clouds are mostly known for forming off the coast of northern Australia in only certain months out of the year, though there have been very rare instances where they’ve formed in different parts of the world. All morning glory clouds are classified as stratocumulus volutus, but very few stratocumulus volutus can be pegged as morning glory clouds.

When classifying a cloud as the species volutus, you should note that these clouds are generally standalone and don’t usually have any other associated varieties or features. As a cloudspotter, it’s easy to spot these clouds due to their uniqueness. They’re fun to photograph, and cause a lot of buzz when one ‘rolls’ through town as they’re quite the extraordinary phenomena.

Stratocumulus volutus (Sc vol)
Stratocumulus volutus (Sc vol)
Altocumulus volutus (Ac vol)
A photograph of a stratocumulus volutus cloud (Sc vol) over a valley

Volutus Cloud Types

The volutus cloud species is associated with only two cloud types: altocumulus and stratocumulus.

A graphical illustration of an altocumulus volutus cloud

Altocumulus (Ac)

Mid-altitude cloud heaps

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus volutus cloud

Stratocumulus (Sc)

Low, puffy layer