I posted this question on Aviation Stack Exchange here. One of the responses suggested that I post my question on Earth Science Stack Exchange.

I need a source that reports necessary current cloud data to determine cloud height or cloud type (Cirrus, Stratus, Cumulus, etc.). I do not need historical data and, for now, I do not need forecast data. Current data only.

I found a question/answer for determining the bottom of the cloud but I can't find it again. I found some relative information in Aviation Stack Exchange and one answer here that tells how to find the cloud tops but I'm posting this question anyway in case there is resource yet to be suggested. I'm giving up on the idea of an API but still hopeful that there are some resources and techniques we can use to acquire this information.

BTW: I am not a weather specialist. I am a Software Engineer and we need this information for Ballistic Missile accuracy. We need to know the weather conditions but cloud data is the most important and yet missing piece.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You should maybe clarify which spatio-temporal extent you need (rastered data/single stations, global/regional (which region?), right now/past/future). $\endgroup$
    – Christoph
    Jan 19, 2016 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry! I need current and forecast (no history) and the area is strictly local wherever local is. We're not doing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Does this help? $\endgroup$
    – Patricia
    Jan 19, 2016 at 16:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Get professional help and contact the national meteorological service or private weather company of you trust. $\endgroup$
    – BHF
    Feb 6, 2016 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite provides new insight into the role that clouds and atmospheric aerosols (airborne particles) play in regulating Earth's weather, climate, and air quality.

CALIPSO combines an active lidar instrument with passive infrared and visible imagers to probe the vertical structure and properties of thin clouds and aerosols over the globe.

The data from the satellite can be found here (https://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/project/calipso/calipso_table), from what I see, the latest dataset is about a week old. While this won't give you the cloud type, it will surely give you the cloud heights, you will have to apply some knowledge though to differentiate between clouds and aerosols.

For the cloud type, I suggest you can look at visible satellite data or infrared satellite data to look at clouds and judge the cloud type.

This is the e-wall from Penn State, http://mp1.met.psu.edu/~fxg1/ewall.html If you look at the left panel about mid-page, you see the heading 'Satellite' and you can look at the visible and infrared spectrum and also a water vapor satellite image.

This approach seems very raw, but this is what I could remember off the top of my head. I don't know of a page that provides real time data about cloud height and cloud type.


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