stra·​to·​cu·​mu·​lus ˌstrā-tō-ˈkyü-myə-ləs How to pronounce stratocumulus (audio)
: stratified low cumulus consisting of large balls or rolls of dark cloud which often cover the whole sky especially in winter see cloud illustration

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What Does a stratocumulus Cloud Look Like?

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.

Examples of stratocumulus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The technicolor light magnificently highlighted the layered and textured low and mid-level clouds, a blend of stratus and stratocumulus. Washington Post, 5 Jan. 2022 When atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise above about 1,200 parts per million (ppm), roughly three times today’s levels, the stratocumulus clouds abruptly break up. Roni Dengler, Discover Magazine, 26 Feb. 2019 The warmer, moister air then rises and mixes with colder air, leading to evaporation from the lake surface that forms stratocumulus clouds. Alexis Oatman, cleveland, 8 Feb. 2022 Huber said the stratocumulus tipping point helps explain the volatility that’s evident in the paleoclimate record. Natalie Wolchover, WIRED, 3 Mar. 2019 Such a setup would enable a more precise prediction of the stratocumulus tipping point or points. Natalie Wolchover, WIRED, 3 Mar. 2019 Low clouds fall into four divisions: cumulus, stratus, cumulonimbus, and stratocumulus. Catherine Zuckerman, National Geographic, 24 Apr. 2019 Within the lenticular category itself, there are several types: Altocumulus standing lenticular, stratocumulus standing lenticular and cirrocumulus standing lenticular. Kathryn Prociv, Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2018 Clouds come in all shapes and sizes: wispy, high cirrus, puffy cumulus, the low, gray stratocumulus layers that blanket gloomy days. Kate Marvel, Scientific American, 8 Dec. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'stratocumulus.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


New Latin

First Known Use

1845, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of stratocumulus was in 1845

Dictionary Entries Near stratocumulus

Cite this Entry

“Stratocumulus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


stra·​to·​cu·​mu·​lus ˌstrāt-ō-ˈkyü-myə-ləs How to pronounce stratocumulus (audio)
: layered cumulus consisting of large balls or rolls of dark cloud which often cover the whole sky especially in winter

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