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Cloud formation takes place almost entirely in the lowest part of the atmosphere known as Troposphere. There are two main groups of clouds: cumuliform and stratiform. The size, shape and the colour of the clouds vary according to locality (latitude), moisture content and stability of the atmosphere and also the time of the day and atmospheric pollutants. The atmosphere generally can be divided into three levels based on the latitude, height and frequency of appearance of certain type of clouds as follows:


Tropical Regions

Temperate Regions

Polar Regions


6 - 18 km

5 - 13 km

3 - 8 km


2 - 8 km

2 - 7 km

2 - 4 km


From ground level to 2 km

From ground level to 2 km

From ground level to 2 km

There are 10 genera of clouds of which 6 falls into the above-mentioned levels as follows:
  1. Low level clouds: Stratocumulus and stratus.
  2. Middle level clouds: Altocumulus.
  3. High level clouds: Cirrus, Cirrocumulus, and Cirrostratus.

The remaining genera do not exactly conform to the above-mentioned levels. These clouds have the tendency to extend from one to another level as follows:
  1. Altostratus usually appears in the middle level but can extend to higher level.
  2. Nimbostratus can extend from middle to higher or lower levels.
  3. Cumulus and Cumulonimbus clouds usually have their bases in the lower level but can extend to middle and higher levels.

The following cloud photos are taken in Peninsula Malaysia mainly in the state of Selangor during the months of May, June and July 2002. The yellowish-orange coloration of some of the clouds is due to the reflection of sunrays during sunset or sunrise. These cloud photos do not cover all genera as mentioned above. They will be revived from time to time to depict weather conditions and the related cloud patterns in Malaysia.

Low Level Clouds

LL1. - Cumulonimbus (Cb)

LL1. This is a distant view of a line of developing Cumulonimbus (Cb) clouds over the Straits of Malacca. They are tall dark/white clouds with base at about 1000 feet and the top can reach beyond 35000 feet. This line of clouds is a common feature in the early morning during Southwest Monsoon. The Cb cells are very close to each other that they appear to be continuous. The golden/yellowish colour is due to the reflection of sunrays from the rising sun in the east. The light cap like clouds (pileus) appearing at the top of the Cb clouds indicates stable moist air above the clouds. The Cb clouds very often move inland across the coastal areas of the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia during the later part of the Southwest Monsoon. When the instability of the atmosphere reaches greater heights these clouds bring heavy rains and thunderstorms to the affected areas.

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