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How to be a cloud detective

What different clouds mean, explained for kids.

If you’re standing outside and you look up, you’ll likely see something familiar above you: clouds! They can be long and skinny, low and rumbly, white and fluffy, or anything in between. But what do these different shapes and colors tell us?

Every cloud is packed full of information, and knowing a bit about them can help you identify different types — and predict the weather.

A chart showing the 10 most common types of clouds, including their shapes, height, and names. Kim Mas, Vox

You can see the 10 most common cloud types on this chart. Cumulus clouds are pretty easy to spot. They’re the classic cloud shape: big, fluffy, white cotton balls in the sky. These usually mean fair weather; when you see them, it’s a good day to be outside.

If you see a big blanket of clouds covering the sky, they might be altostratus — and they might mean that rain is coming.

In the video above, we explain the qualities of common cloud types and discuss some unusual ones. Plus we share some tips about how we can all get better at decoding clouds.

With your parent or guardian’s permission, you can download and print out your own cloud chart, like the one we showed in this video. Happy cloud hunting!

This video is part of Vox’s first-ever week of video programming for kids. We designed these episodes for kids ages 9 to 13, but we hope everyone in our audience enjoys them.

If you’re a parent, educator, or a kid at heart, please sign up for our newsletter for updates on all of our upcoming kids’ programming at Vox, from podcasts to videos to new shows:

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