Stratocumulus Clouds: Low, Puffy Layer

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Definition: Thicker, low-altitude, and somewhat conjoined heaps of clouds

Description & Characteristics. You might consider stratocumulus clouds a mix of stratus clouds and cumulus clouds. Hence the name (strato- and cumulo- are latin for layer and heap, respectively). They’re a layer of puffy clouds, and can usually be found joined together, similar to altocumulus clouds. In a lot of ways, these clouds are like altocumulus clouds, but much closer to the ground.

Similar to altocumulus, stratocumulus clouds come in many different shapes and sizes and have a handful of associated species, varieties, and features, more than any of the ten main cloud types in fact. This arguably makes for exciting time watching the sky. They come in various cloud species that describe forms of rising turret formations (castellanus), wooly locks (floccus), smooth lens shaped (lenticularis), layer form blanketing the sky (stratiformis), and even as a roll cloud (volutus).

More dramatic versions of stratocumulus clouds include (but aren’t limited to) chaotic and wavy features (asperitas), sac-like features (mamma), and can even have the rare kelvin-helmholtz wave cloud (fluctus) association. It’s fair to say that stratocumulus clouds are diverse as they’re capable of many different looks.

Stratocumulus (Sc)
Stratocumulus floccus (Sc flo)
Stratocumulus radiatus (Sc ra)
Stratocumulus (Sc)
Stratocumulus lenticularis undulatus (Sc len un)
Stratocumulus (Sc)
Stratocumulus volutus (Sc vol)
Stratocumulus stratiformis opacus (Sc str op)
Stratocumulus castellanus (Sc cas)
Stratocumulus floccus (Sc flo)
Stratocumulus (Sc)
Stratocumulus (Sc)

Stratocumulus Cloud Facts

  • Cloud Level (Étage): ….. Low
  • Altitude/Height: ……… 0.5-2km (2,000-7,000 ft)
  • Latin Term: …………… Derives from strato-, meaning layer, and cumulo-, meaning heap
  • Abbreviation: ………… Stratocumulus can be abbreviated as Sc
A bar graph showing the visual color of a stratocumulus cloud

Cloud Color

Light gray to dark gray

A bar graph showing the precipitation potential of a stratocumulus cloud

Precipitation Potential


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

Sky Cover

Mostly cloudy to mostly sunny

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

Cloud Frequency

Very common

Stratocumulus Cloud Species

Stratocumulus clouds have five associated cloud species: castellanus, floccus, lenticularis, stratiformis, and volutus.

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus castellanus cloud

Stratocumulus castellanus

Rising towers, turrets

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus floccus cloud

Stratocumulus floccus

Puffy, ragged tufts

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus lenticularis cloud

Stratocumulus lenticularis

Lens-shaped, resembling a UFO

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus stratiformis cloud

Stratocumulus stratiformis

Horizontal, layer-like form

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus volutus cloud

Stratocumulus volutus

Tube-shaped roll cloud

Stratocumulus Cloud Varieties

Stratocumulus clouds have seven associated cloud species: duplicatus, lacunosus, opacus, perlucidus, radiatus, translucidus, and undulatus.

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus lacunosus cloud

Stratocumulus lacunosus

Perforated, round frayed holes

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus opacus cloud

Stratocumulus opacus

Opaque, masks the sun

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus perlucidus cloud

Stratocumulus perlucidus

Transparent by small gaps

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus radiatus cloud

Stratocumulus radiatus

Parallel bands and strips

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus translucidus cloud

Stratocumulus translucidus

See-through, sun’s position visible

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus undulatus cloud

Stratocumulus undulatus

Wavelike, undulating

Stratocumulus Cloud Supplementary Features

Stratocumulus clouds have six supplementary features: asperitas, cavum, fluctus, mamma, praecipitatio, and virga.

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus asperitas cloud

Stratocumulus asperitas

Chaotic, wavy underneath

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus cavum cloud

Stratocumulus cavum

Fallstreak hole, hole punch

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus fluctus cloud

Stratocumulus fluctus

Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, curls

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus mamma cloud

Stratocumulus mamma

Sac-like, resembling cow udders

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus praecipitatio cloud

Stratocumulus praecipitatio

Precipitation reaching the surface

A graphical illustration of a stratocumulus virga cloud

Stratocumulus virga

Evaporating rain strips

Stratocumulus Cloud Accessories & Other Clouds

Stratocumulus clouds don’t have any accessory clouds or other clouds associated with this cloud type. ⛅

Similar Cloud Types

Stratocumulus vs. Altocumulus

Altocumulus clouds are more closely related to stratocumulus clouds than they are to cumulus clouds. They share almost all of the same cloud species, cloud varieties, and other cloud features. Their altitude however differentiates them the most, with stratocumulus clouds being closer to the ground. Hence, stratocumulus cloud formations are seemingly bigger, and are generally a bit darker than altocumulus clouds.

Stratocumulus vs. Altostratus

Altostratus clouds are generally a featureless layer cloud, whereas stratocumulus clouds have more detail. Remember, if you’re trying to decide between an altostratus and stratocumulus cloud, and the cloud being observed has been determined to have an associated cloud species, it’s not an altostratus cloud.

Stratocumulus vs. Cumulus

Both stratocumulus and cumulus clouds are found at the same height, but stratocumulus clouds are more of a layer cloud than a cumulus cloud, usually found in conjoined groups or clumps of clouds. Additionally, stratocumulus clouds are generally darker than cumulus clouds. It’s also important to note that both clouds don’t share any cloud species or varieties besides the radiatus cloud variety.

Stratocumulus vs. Nimbostratus

When deciding between stratocumulus and nimbostratus clouds, remember that nimbostratus clouds are associated with rain, whereas stratocumulus clouds only rain on the rarest of occasions. Nimbostratus clouds are generally featureless and don’t have any associated cloud species or varieties, while stratocumulus clouds have plenty to go around.

Stratocumulus vs. Stratus

Both stratocumulus and stratus clouds are found at the same altitude. But if you’re deciding between a stratus and stratocumulus cloud, remember that stratus clouds are generally featureless layer clouds. On the contrary, stratocumulus clouds can contain plenty of features. Both clouds don’t share any of the same cloud species, which can help you decide between the two.