Cirrus Undulatus

Above: Cirrus Undulatus

Cirrus Undulatus

At a glance, clouds appear to be roughly the same elevation, they are high up in the sky and that is the end of the story, right? Not necessarily. Actually, some clouds are surprising low to the ground, for example, fog. The other clouds are found quite high in the skies-high enough that jet planes are hard pressed to penetrate their fluffy white exteriors. These are termed as high altitude clouds and a good example of them is the cirrus clouds. Additionally, they come in varied sub-forms and one such sub-form is the cirrus undulatus clouds.

What are cirrus undulatus clouds?

Cirrus undulatus clouds are a type of cirrus clouds that form wavelike patterns in the sky and tend to resemble the ocean’s water waves. Basically, cirrus undulatus clouds are found in patches that have been arranged in parallel wave-like rows that normally beautifies the skies.

How are cirrus undulatus clouds formed?

According to the weather experts, these clouds are formed when warm and cold air meets, thereby causing a turbulent effect. Additionally, they can also be formed when dry warm airs meets moist air. They are formed very high in the skies, well above 20,000 feet above the ground level and their formation generally appears when the surface temperatures are relatively cool or in the early stages when the weather starts to get destabilized.

What do cirrus undulatus clouds look like?

Mostly, these clouds have a wave-like appearance due to the effects of the heavy winds blowing around a small section in the skies. Cirrus undulatus clouds appear as small patches or as layers of waves. Sometimes, they consist of two or more agitated waves that are interweaved with each other, if they are dual- waved they are often referred to as cirrus biundulatus. Other names for these clouds include; wind-row clouds, billow clouds and wave clouds. The waves or strips are normally aligned to the direction of the wind and can be wide or parallel or near parallel.

How common are cirrus undulatus clouds?

These are very rare clouds and although they may appear darkish or storm-like, they often dissipate without forming a storm. These wavy clouds are particularly common in the plains of United States of America, usually during the morning hours, though they can also be found in other parts of the world if their formation conditions allow it. Sometimes, they can also be observed during the midday hours, especially following convective thunderstorm activities. As these clouds are usually formed very high in the skies, they are often indiscernible to the naked eye.

Features of cirrus undulatus clouds

  • Have wavelike appearance.
  • They are one of the many cirrus cloud sub-forms.
  • Form in heights exceeding 20 000 feet above the ground level.
  • Mostly observed in either the morning or midday hours.
  • Commonly found in the United State of America, though if the conditions are right, they can be found all over the world.


All in all, cirrus undulatus clouds indicate that there are rising masses of warm air meeting with cool high altitude air at a certain saturation point.  The resultant water droplets are drawn back to the earth surface by gravity, thereby resulting to what is generally referred to as precipitation. Types of precipitation are such as; snow, rain, sleet and so forth.

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