Cloud cover

How to Measure Cloud Cover

What do you see when you go outside and look at the skies? You might be impressed by the clouds. They are incredible phenomena that affect the weather in many ways and understanding them is a great asset if you want to know more about climatology.

In the following guide, you can find a lot of useful information on clouds: you can learn a definition, basic aspects, types, and how to measure coverage. When done reading, you can understand them much better and even comprehend why measuring them is so important.

Therefore, make sure you read until the end and share the guide with your friends and family. That way, they can also learn useful things about the clouds and broaden their climatological knowledge!

Cloud Definition and Basics

In climatology, a cloud is a mass formed by tiny liquid particles, frozen crystals, or other particles. Clouds hover in Earth’s atmosphere, and they are a pivotal part of understanding weather phenomena because they’re responsible for many of them, such as the rain.

On Earth, clouds begin to form when water condenses in the sky. In other words, water evaporates on the ground and goes up to the sky. When that occurs, it becomes cool water vapor (also known as the condensation process), and people can observe clouds as a result of it.

Aggregate Cloud Layers

According to the World Meteorological Organization, aggregate cloud layers have three different types: low, medium, and high.

First of all, low clouds form on the surface and can reach up to 6,000 feet in altitude. Medium clouds, on the other hand, are found around 10,000 feet in altitude. Lastly, we find high clouds at altitudes of 20,000 feet or higher.

Understanding aggregate cloud layers are very important for meteorological purposes, such as weather casting. When people comprehend the clouds, they can use that knowledge for flight planning, solar power predictions, and others use it to spend some leisure time.

Quantification of Cloud Cover

Cloud cover is expressed in a percentage that includes different levels. Unless otherwise noted, people should always use that notation to indicate cover.

Thus, the percentage indicates how much of the sky is covered. 0% stands for full visibility and no clouds, whereas 100% means that no part of the clear sky is visible.

In practice, it’s very difficult to quantify cloud cover, as it requires special equipment to make sure that the results are accurate. But, many like to estimate this, and there is no reason you can’t either, now that you know a bit about how it works.

How to Measure Cloud Type

The method to classify clouds by type follows the criteria by the World Meteorological Organization. Thus, the classification includes the following levels and specific categories.

The three levels are high, medium, and low, but you can find different cloud types in each of them. For example, cumulus and stratocumulus belong to the low level.

However, you should keep in mind that the only correct classification by type occurs when the observer is present.

How to Measure Cloud Amount

To measure cloud amount, it’s important to remember that the total and partial amounts are counted and reported. While total clouds include any fraction of the sky that’s covered, partial ones are sky fractions that have a cloud layer instead of full coverage.

A cloud amount is a number expressed in eighths or oktas, and keep in mind that the only clouds measured are the ones that pass directly on top of the instrument when the person is there.

How to Measure Cloud Base Height

People who measure cloud base height use specific instruments that give them precise results. That tool has the responsibility of analyzing all parts of the clouds’ structure. That way, it determines its height and whether or not there’s precipitation or other variables.

The specialized tool uses a laser with light detection and ranging to measure cloud base height. With that, it emits eye-safe laser pulses that quantify the clouds’ characteristics, including height.

Cloud Cover Significance

How to Measure Cloud Cover

To measure cloud cover, you use oktas or eighths, which is the proper unit. If you want to do it at home, grab a mirror and divide it into eight squares. Place it correctly so you can see the clouds and count how many squares are covered by them.

Likewise, specific measurements include:

  • 0 oktas represent complete cloud absence
  • 1 okta is an eighth or less of cloud
  • 7 oktas are seven eighths or more, but it’s still not full coverage
  • 8 oktas are full coverage, where you can’t see any part of clear sky

People also combine the measurements to express scattered clouds or other characteristics. For example, if most of the sky is covered but not completely, then it’s 5 to 7 oktas.

Significance of Cloud Cover

The main reason cloud cover is so important is that it helps determine the weather forecast. Clouds impact the temperature because they give more or less sun to the ground. Therefore, they can help people understand if they may feel cold or warm.


Understanding the clouds’ movements and what they do is very important because they affect many different things – from rain to temperature. They also have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Now that you know new information, you can share all the useful data in the guide with your friends and family and give them the chance to learn more about the clouds as well!

share on:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Get more with


Take the weather with you

By QR code

Scan the QR and install

App QR Download