LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Did you know that Las Vegas is tied with Phoenix as the sunniest large city in the United States? We enjoy mostly sunny conditions about 85% of the time. There are four main types of clouds, and we see them all from time to time in Southern Nevada.
Cirrus clouds are made of ice crystals and have a thin, wispy appearance. They're located high in the sky, above 15,000 feet, where temperatures are almost always below the 32° freezing point. When sunlight bends through ice crystals, especially before sunrise and after sunset, the light is scattered into beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, and occasionally purple.
Stratus clouds have a layered appearance and typically fill the sky, giving the impression of a dull, gray day. Rain, usually light to moderate, is possible in stratus clouds, which are made up of water droplets instead of ice.
Cumulus clouds are fair weather clouds that have a puffy, cotton ball appearance. They are made of water droplets, and typically form about 5,000 feet off the ground here in Las Vegas. Cumulus clouds can form closer to the ground in other parts of the country where there's more moisture.
Cumulonimbus clouds, also know as thunderstorms, can be several miles tall. Heavy bursts of rain, as well as hail, can soak Las Vegas with more than 1" of water in under an hour, which poses the threat of flooding. Severe winds are also possible from a strong storm, which can knock down trees and power lines, as well as kick up dust. Lighting is another kind of threatening weather to look out for when a thunderstorm is nearby.