When a cloud type forms a broad "layer" over the earth, the strat- root shows up in its scientific name. The type called simply stratus forms a low layer of gray extending over a large area. Cirrostratus ("curl layer") clouds form a high, thin layer often covering the entire sky (but without the wispy curls of ice crystals that give pure cirrus clouds their name). Altostratus ("high layer") clouds form a darkish gray mid-altitude layer. Nimbostratus ("rainstorm layer") clouds form a low, dark layer of gray cloud that usually produces light but continuous rain, snow, or sleet (but not violent storms of the kind that give pure nimbus clouds their name). Cumulus ("heap") is the familiar puffy fair-weather type of cloud; stratocumulus is its more wintry version, which spreads out in a fairly flat layer, much less "heaped up", and sometimes dense enough to cover almost the whole sky.
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