Cirrostratus Clouds: Pale, Veil-like Layer

  1. WhatsThisCloud
  2. Cloud Types
  3. Cirrostratus Clouds

Definition: Thin, transparent, high-altitude cloud layer capable of producing a 22° halo

Description & Characteristics. Cirrostratus clouds can best be described as a cloud blanket high up in the troposphere, spread out across the sky. Found at the same altitude as their cirrus and cirrocumulus counterparts, these clouds are more widely known for being the culprit of sun and moon halos, as they’re composed of ice crystals.

Like most layer clouds, cirrostratus clouds generally take on a relatively dull appearance. Don’t take offense, but cirrostratus clouds can be a boring cloud. They have very few cloud species and varieties associated with them. One distinction that cirrostratus clouds have going for them however is that they’re one of two clouds that can be fibrous in appearance (fibratus cloud species). They’re also one of two clouds, the other cloud being stratus, that can take on a hazy, nebulous feel (nebulosus cloud species), which is where the cloud completely lacks any kind of discernible detail. There are instances where a cirrostratus cloud might take on a wavelike appearance (undulatus cloud variety).

Because cirrostratus clouds are generally very thin, the sun will always be visible, which might help you distinguish it from its close relative altostratus cloud. Sometimes they’re so thin, they’re almost difficult to even make out.

Cirrostratus fibratus undulatus (Cs fib un) with a 22° halo
Cirrostratus nebulosus (Cs neb)
Cirrostratus nebulosus (Cs neb) with a 22° halo
Cirrostratus fibratus (Cs fib) with a 22° halo
Cirrostratus fibratus (Cs fib)
Cirrostratus (Cs)
Cirrostratus (Cs)
A photograph of cirrostratus fibratus undulatus clouds (Cs fib un) with a halo over some trees

Cirrostratus Cloud Facts

  • Cloud Level (Étage): ….. High
  • Altitude/Height: ……… 6-13km (20,000-43,000 ft)
  • Latin Term: …………… Derives from cirro-, meaning curl, and strato-, meaning layer
  • Abbreviation: ………… Cirrostratus can be abbreviated as Cs
A bar graph showing the visual color of a cirrostratus cloud

Cloud Color

White to light gray

A bar graph showing the precipitation potential of a cirrostratus cloud

Precipitation Potential


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

Sky Cover

Partly sunny to mostly sunny

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

Cloud Frequency


Cirrostratus Cloud Species

Cirrostratus clouds have two associated cloud species: fibratus and nebulosus.

A graphical illustration of a cirrostratus fibratus cloud

Cirrostratus fibratus

Fiberlike, hairlike

A graphical illustration of a cirrostratus nebulosus cloud

Cirrostratus nebulosus

Full of vapor, lacking detail

Cirrostratus Cloud Varieties

Cirrostratus clouds have two associated cloud varieties: duplicatus and undulatus.

A graphical illustration of a cirrostratus undulatus cloud

Cirrostratus undulatus

Wavelike, undulating

Cirrostratus Cloud Supplementary Features

Roses are red, and be thankful for your teachers, but cirrostratus clouds have no supplementary features. ⛅

Cirrostratus Cloud Accessories & Other Clouds

Cirrostratus 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 cirrostratus homomutatus cloud

Cirrostratus homomutatus

Mutated from a homogenitus

Similar Cloud Types

Cirrostratus vs. Cirrus

Cirrostratus and cirrus clouds are found at the same altitude and both can be fibrous in nature. When deciding between the two, remember that a cirrostratus cloud generally covers the sky and is more of a pale, veil-like layer cloud, where you’ll generally see more individual elements in a cirrus cloud, such as comma shapes, fishbone-like shapes, and other wispy shapes.

Cirrostratus vs. Cirrocumulus

Cirrostratus and cirrocumulus 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.

Cirrostratus vs. Altostratus

Cirrostratus and altostratus clouds are both layer clouds. A key difference is that if you see an optical phenomena in a cloud and are trying to decide between the two, you’re probably looking at a cirrostratus cloud. Cirrostratus clouds are lighter in color, you can always see the sun’s position through a cirrostratus cloud, which is not always the case with altostratus clouds, which are darker and lower to the ground than cirrostratus clouds.