Cirrocumulus Clouds: High-altitude Cloudlets

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Definition: Small, flakey, and white high-altitude cumulus heaps and patches

Description & Characteristics. Cirrocumulus clouds are thin cloud patches found high in the troposphere and are the only cloud found here that has cloud heap characteristics. Because cirrocumulus clouds are so high in altitude, the cloud heaps take on what can be described as a ‘grain of rice’ appearance. Take note when you see them because along with cumulonimbus, cirrocumulus clouds are the least seen among the ten main cloud types.

Unlike cirrus and cirrostratus clouds, cirrocumulus clouds don’t typically produce sun halos, though they are capable of iridescence and coronas on the rare occasion. Additionally, these are the only clouds in the high level that cannot be found in the fibrous form.

If you see a cirrocumulus cloud, the chances are good that there are cirrus and/or cirrostratus clouds nearby or even adjacent. Similar to altocumulus clouds, cirrocumulus can also take on a mackerel sky effect, resembling fish scales. If you’re lucky enough to see a mackerel sky at sunset, you’re in for a treat.

Cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus (Cc str un)
Cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus cavum (Cc str un cav)
Cirrocumulus floccus (Cc flo)
Cirrocumulus stratiformis (Cc str)
Cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus lacunosus (Cc str un la)
Cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus (Cc str un)
Cirrocumulus undulatus (Cc un)
Cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus (Cc str un)
Cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus (Cc str un)

Cirrocumulus Cloud Facts

  • Cloud Level(Étage): ….. High
  • Altitude/Height: ……… 5-15km (16,000-49,000 ft)
  • Latin Term: …………… Derives from cirro-, meaning curl, and cumulo-, meaning heap
  • Abbreviation: ………… Cirrocumulus can be abbreviated as Cc
A bar graph showing the visual color of a cirrocumulus cloud

Cloud Color

White to light gray

A bar graph showing the precipitation potential of a cirrocumulus cloud

Precipitation Potential

Virga only

A bar graph showing the amount of sky cover from a cirrocumulus cloud

Sky Cover

Partly sunny to mostly sunny

A bar graph showing how common observing a cirrocumulus cloud might be

Cloud Frequency


Cirrocumulus Cloud Species

Cirrocumulus clouds have four associated cloud species: castellanus, floccus, lenticularis, and stratiformis.

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus castellanus cloud

Cirrocumulus castellanus

Rising towers, turrets

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus floccus cloud

Cirrocumulus floccus

Puffy, ragged tufts

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus lenticularis cloud

Cirrocumulus lenticularis

Lens-shaped, resembling a UFO

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus stratiformis cloud

Cirrocumulus stratiformis

Horizontal, layer-like form

Cirrocumulus Cloud Varieties

Cirrocumulus clouds have two associated cloud varieties: lacunosus and undulatus.

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus lacunosus cloud

Cirrocumulus lacunosus

Perforated, round frayed holes

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus undulatus cloud

Cirrocumulus undulatus

Wavelike, undulating

Cirrocumulus Cloud Supplementary Features

Cirrocumulus clouds have three associated supplementary features: cavum, mamma, and virga.

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus cavum cloud

Cirrocumulus cavum

Fallstreak hole, hole punch

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus mamma cloud

Cirrocumulus mamma

Sac-like, resembling cow udders

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus virga cloud

Cirrocumulus virga

Evaporating rain strips

Cirrocumulus Cloud Accessories & Other Clouds

Cirrocumulus clouds don’t have any associated accessory clouds, but do have one other cloud associated with the cloud type: homomutatus.

A graphical illustration of a cirrocumulus homomutatus cloud

Cirrocumulus homomutatus

Mutated from a homogenitus

Similar Cloud Types

Cirrocumulus vs. Cirrus

Both cirrocumulus and cirrus clouds are found at the same altitude, and a lot of times when observing cirrocumulus clouds, you’ll see cirrus clouds in close proximation. The biggest difference between the two is cirrocumulus clouds contain puffy cloudlets and look like grains of rice, where cirrus clouds are more fibrous, hair-like, or wispy in nature.

Cirrocumulus vs. Cirrostratus

Cirrocumulus and cirrostratus clouds are both found at the same heights and can be seen in close proximation with one another. If you’re deciding between the two, and the cloud in question is featureless, or perhaps somewhat fibrous, chances are you’re observing a cirrostratus cloud. Cirrocumulus clouds contain more features than cirrostratus clouds, whereas a cirrostratus cloud is a layer.

Cirrocumulus vs. Altocumulus

Cirrocumulus and altocumulus clouds share many of the same cloud species, but cirrocumulus clouds are higher in altitude, so their cloud patches appear smaller. Cirrocumulus clouds are more often than not seen with cirrus and cirrostratus clouds in near proximity. Altocumulus clouds are also much more commonly observed than cirrocumulus. It’s more common to see the entire sky covered by a layer of altocumulus clouds than cirrocumulus clouds.