Abbreviation St
Family C
Genus Stratus
Occurrence Worldwide
Altitude 0-2000m
Formation lifting of a large air mass followed by condensation
Precipitation Drizzle or slight rain or snow
Potential Hazards Can mask terrain
Stratus 1

A thick low-level stratus nebulosus cloud dimming the sun.

Stratus clouds (St) are low-altitude clouds which form in horizontal sheets and occur when large areas of air rise, usually due to an incoming frontal system, wind encountering a large land mass, or the lifting of fog (which is, itself, a stratus cloud). The rising airmass must be moist and atmospheric conditions must be stable for a stratus cloud to form. Stratus is the lowest-altitude cloud formation (as fog, its altitude can be as low as 0m above ground level) and typically has a ragged grey appearance. Stratus can cover hundreds of square kilometres but is usually thinner than 450 metres. It is the typical "cloudy day" formation - a sheet of cloud occluding the entire sky. Stratus clouds can appear to be virtually any shade of grey depending upon the thickness of the horizontal sheet. Precipitation from stratus clouds is uncommon though possible in small quantities, especially in thicker stratus clouds. When it does occur, the cloud which produces it is referred to as a nimbostratus cloud. Stratus can be a hazard when it blankets the ground, reducing visibility and potentially causing automobile and aviation accidents.

Stratus clouds were first described by Luke Howard in 1802 as consisting of "a widely extended continuous horizontal sheet, increasing from below upwards."


Hail fog
Fog stratus
Orographic stratus
Stratus fractus
Stratus lenticularis
Stratus nebulosus
Stratus opacus
Stratus opacus uniformis
Stratus praecipitatio
Stratus translucidus
Stratus undulatus

High Clouds (Family A): Cirrus (Ci) • Cirrus aviaticus • Cirrus intortus • Cirrus radiatus • Cirrus uncinus • Cirrus Kelvin-Helmholtz • Cirrostratus (Cs) • Cirrocumulus (Cc) • Pileus • Contrail
Middle Clouds (Family B): Altostratus (As) • Altostratus undulatus • Altocumulus (Ac) • Altocumulus undulatus • Altocumulus mackerel sky • Altocumulus castellanus • Altocumulus lenticularis
Low Clouds (Family C): Stratus (St) • Orographic stratus • Fog • Nimbostratus (Ns) • Cumulus humilis (Cu) • Cumulus mediocris (Cu) • Stratocumulus (Sc)
Vertical Clouds (Family D): Cumulonimbus (Cb) • Cumulonimbus incus • Cumulonimbus calvus • Cumulonimbus with mammatus • Cumulus congestus • Cumulus castellanus • Pyrocumulus  • Pyrocumulonimbus
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