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Cloud varieties go way beyond the cumulus, stratus, and cirrus we learn about in elementary school. Check out these wild natural phenomena.

STANDING IN A CORNFIELD IN INDIANA, I once saw a fat roll cloud (like #4 below) float directly over my head. It’s a 12-year-old memory that remains fresh. There was a moment of mild panic just as the cloud reached me — Is this what a tornado looks like right before it hits? I thought. This is some freaky unnatural shit and I do not know how I’m supposed to react.

I imagine a lot of these photographers having similar hesitations as they set up for the shots below. While it was relatively easy to put together this collection due to the huge number of crazy cloud pictures available online (did you know there’s a Cloud Appreciation Society?), many of the phenomena shown here are pretty rare…and potentially panic-inducing.

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About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • PhotoMundo

    INCREDIBLE! I am absolutely in love with cloud formations! Am so lucky to have a pilot as a boyfriend who is knowledgable and shares so much information with me! Him and I love this post and are so glad to see that someone loves the awesome power of elements in the sky and the aesthetic wonders that they can produce. Great collection of photos, amateur to professional, very inclusive!

  • David Miller

    love how this piece triggers so many memories. makes me grateful for those 4 years we lived on the front range, which, as a convergence zone between the rockies and plains, forms spectacular clouds on a regular basis.

  • Migdalia Gil

    Beautiful, just beautiful!

  • Marie Lisa Jose

    The picture from the ISS reminds me of Van Gogh’s stary night!
    Lovely, l as always.

  • Wally George

    Check the Sky…

  • Kathy Amen

    What wonderful pictures! Thanks for assembling this collection!

    You sure can see how the UFO stories get started; some of those shots look like invasion is imminent.

    • I Love Photography

      This is Awesome

  • Bekk Dickson

    Simply beautiful, thank you, great way to start my day :-)

    • Jay Hague

      Your day starts at 4:32 PM?

    • Laura Koumos

      If you think everyone in the world is in the same time zone as you, you don’t really understand how time zones work…

    • Greg Seth

      he’s from Florida, go figure.

    • Greg Seth

      he’s from Florida, go figure.

    • Greg Seth

      he’s from Florida, go figure.

    • Greg Seth

      he’s from Florida, go figure.

  • Damien Bouchard

    This clouds photos are remarkable. Conscious clouds.

  • Charlotte Stuart

    That was GREAT! I love to look at clouds and I’ve never seen some of the types shown in this photo collection. Great!

  • Tony Berdahl


  • Neil Brown

    Great shots!

  • Michael Tianias

    Wow Natures a pretty amazing thing.

  • Luka Šenica

    I think that on photo #22 are clouds called whales’s mouth…

  • Amy Durocher

    you seem to have omitted “mackerel” clouds (a kind of wave I guess), and “mare’s tails”, like these:

    • Hal Amen

      nice one amy. maybe related to the fallstreak hole (#42)?

    • Amy Durocher

      I should have mentioned that this is a wonderful collection – I’m not always thinking well late at night when I finally have time to look at fun stuff like this. I just looked them up and they’re a form of cirrus cloud. I love things like this.

  • Jack Stansbury

    I only see 10 pictures here.

    • Hal Amen

      try reloading, jack. some connections were having trouble loading all these big pics.

  • Alyson Bruno

    Beautiful! Love to know all these clouds exist. #56, MI should be MO (mi is Michigan)

  • Gloria J Clay

    Wow! How beautiful. I love looking at clouds and seeing the different shapes, sizes and colors. Thank you so very much for posting these. Great job.

  • Ruth Bivins

    Nice collection! We’re living in New Zealand now, and the clouds *are* frequently interesting in a way that surprises me. Often I’ll think that if I painted a picture with clouds just like that, no one would believe it was a realistic picture. Sometimes the combinations look so improbable – but I’m not a weather expert.

    • Karen Gulliver

      I must say, I do miss the clouds of New Zealand!

    • Ahmad Traboulsi

      grab your camera and you will have a special collection then :)

    • Crystal Tadaizy Phillips

      take pictures!

  • Grace Dalley

    A wonderful collection of pics, thank you!
    #3 is definitely a lenticular formation (compare #32). These clouds are not unusual in Canterbury, New Zealand, where I live.
    #22 is also not unusual here, I think it’s a particularly turbulent altostratus. It happens when we have a Fohn wind that’s not strong enough to cause lenticular clouds.
    I’m pretty sure #26 is not iridescence but the much rarer and more colourful circumhorizonal arc:
    #52 the 22-degree halo isn’t reliant on the angle of the sun but the shape, uniformity and orientation of the ice crystals in the cirrus clouds:
    Thanks for the pictures :-)

    • Leigh Christina Russell

      Amazing! I was glad to follow your trail to this site, thank you Grace!

    • Leigh Christina Russell

      Amazing! I was glad to follow your trail to this site, thank you Grace!

    • Leigh Christina Russell

      Amazing! I was glad to follow your trail to this site, thank you Grace!

    • Grace Dalley

      Mekayla told me I should go ahead and be a smart ass. ;-)

  • Darek Zoń

    And some regular clouds from poland:

  • Kevin Kevern

    The beauty of Jehovah’s creation.

  • Ness Bamkin

    Absolutely stunning, how wonderful is mother nature!!!

  • Jesús Ocaña

    Maybe they are alien tourists that don’t really know how to hide.

  • Andre Brownlee

    Great pictures!

  • Sandra Smith

    3, and 32 have to be the best. Have never seen any like them. My Mom got me interested in clouds in the late 60′s. Thank you.

  • John Duran

    Awesome pictorial. I was in NYC in 2009 when those mammatus appeared. A deluge of biblical proportions fell. Followed by a massive rainbow. Crazy day.

  • Kuroda Nori
  • Kuroda Nori
  • Kuroda Nori
  • Kuroda Nori
  • Lucy Williamson

    No. 22 and No. 56 are Asperatus Undulatus Clouds –
    Awesome photos!

  • Richard Huntington


    • Lana Ritchie

      Awesome!! I’m sharing! :)

  • Gagan

    Awesome Collection of Pictures! Very informative & fascinating to watch on the PC as well :)

  • rcas

    very cool ,I’ve seen a few of these but it seem Australia and New Zealand have very different ones.

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