SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Do you really know which clouds to really worry about?
It’s not just the size or the shape, but what the cloud is actually doing says a lot about the atmosphere. And just because a cloud is dark, doesn't mean it's severe, that just means there's a lot of water vapor or moisture in it.
Stratus clouds. They are responsible for those gray, dreary, and usually cooler temperatures. Stratus clouds are like a huge weather blanket. It makes it hard for the sun to warm us up, and usually it's accompanied by rain showers. Overall stratus clouds are pretty low on the worry meter.
Cumulonimbus clouds are the precursor to a thunderstorm and it's one you need to watch. If the tops are clear and crisp and going vertical, there’s something brewing. This one is in the middle of the worry meter.
Shelf clouds look like they are crawling on the horizon. They can bring heavy downpours, hail and mainly very gusty winds behind that. They typically expand for hundreds of miles across the entire sky. And this one is on the moderate to high level on the worry meter.
A shelf cloud is often mistaken for this cloud, called a wall cloud – and it's on the high end of the worry meter. Wall clouds may happen right before a tornado. It doesn't always produce one, but it means we are dealing with a thunderstorm that has the right amount of wind shear to create rotation. A wall cloud is basically a lowering of the bottom part of a rotating thunderstorm. This is definitely one to watch or report - especially if it starts to rotate. Yeah, this is one is very high on the worry meter.
Often times a wall cloud will start to produce a funnel coming out of the bottom if it. It’s not reaching the ground yet and no debris is showing up, but it is the last step before a tornado. You all know what that looks like. It’s the highest you can go on the worry meter.
And if you aren't sure, you can always snap a pic and send it to us. We’ll get back to you pretty quickly.