Cumulus Mamma

Above: Cumulus Mamma

Cumulus Mamma

Cumulus mamma clouds must be distinguished from mammatus clouds. The mammatus cloud formations are very distinct in that the formations look like the udders of a cow or like a woman's breasts. The mammatus clouds tend to look heavy and for some people ominous, whereas the cumulus mamma clouds do not portray that representation. The cumulus mamma clouds appear substantially lighter than the mammatus clouds and tend not to be grouped on a large base. The mammatus clouds usually appear as a large formation of udders that hang from the sky and if coupled with lighting, can provide an interesting and often inspiring visual presentation.

What height are cumulus mamma clouds found?

As with most cumulus clouds or clouds from the cumulus genus, the cumulus mamma cloud formations are common at between 6,000 and 10,000 feet. However ultimately this is dependent on the how high the warm air is able to travel before meeting the cooler air in the stratosphere.

Classification of cumulus mamma clouds

The cumulus mamma clouds form part of the cumulus genus and the cloud formations listed under this genus include:

  • Cumulus pileus with reference to the small cap that sit atop the parent cloud


  • Cumulus tuba where a column appears to hang from the bottom of the cumulus formation


  • Cumulus velum where it looks like there is a thin sheet of glass in the middle of the cloud amongst others. The cumulus mamma however is unique because it looks more like bubbles facing downward from the sky.

How are cumulus mamma clouds formed?

The cumulus mamma clouds, which normally have a lifespan of between ten to 50 minutes are formed by convection or the lifting of warm air that cools or which meets the cooler water droplets or ice crystals in the sky.

What do cumulus mamma clouds look like?

Common white and puffy, these clouds look like cotton balls or bubbles that are hanging downwards from the sky. It is important not to mistake these with mammatus clouds which are more clearly defined to look like a woman’s breasts. The cumulus mamma clouds tend to have a flat base and appear lumpy. They do not necessarily form in a large formation and it is quite common to see small, free flying formations of the cumulus mamma clouds.

How common are cumulus mamma clouds?

Cumulus mamma clouds are a fairly common feature and their formation is dependent on the levels of humidity that are present in the air. Bearing in mind that cumulus clouds generally are formed as a consequence of convection when the warm air meets the cooler surface in the sky, they are more common during the summer months.

Where can I see cumulus mamma clouds?

The cumulus mamma clouds are visible everywhere in the world. Either a sign of fair weather then they are white, or a side of sudden and heavy rainfall when they are a darker grey – these cumulus mamma clouds carry a large amount of moisture within them.

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