Pileus (meteorology)

Pileus on a Cumulus cloud
Pileus forming over the ash cloud from an eruption of Sarychev Peak

A pileus (/ˈpliəs/; Latin for "cap"), also called scarf cloud or cap cloud, is a small, horizontal, lenticular cloud appearing above a cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud, giving the parent cloud a characteristic "hoodlike" appearance. Pilei tend to change shape rapidly.[citation needed] They are formed by strong updraft at lower altitudes, acting upon moist air above, causing the air to cool to its dew point. As such, they are usually indicators of severe weather, and a pileus found atop a cumulus cloud often foreshadows transformation into a cumulonimbus cloud, as it indicates a strong updraft within the cloud.

Clouds that are attached to pilei are often given the suffix "pileus" or "with pileus". For example, a cumulonimbus cloud with a pileus attached to it would be called "cumulonimbus with pileus".

Pilei can also form above ash clouds and pyrocumulus clouds from erupting volcanoes (see the adjacent image).

Pilei form above some mushroom clouds of high-yield nuclear detonations.

A sheet of altostratus cloud often is seen lower down in a cumulonimbus cloud, this is known as a velum cloud.[citation needed]


Pilei clouds indicate the parent cloud is growing rapidly, has plenty of moisture, and is highly unstable. This means the parent cloud could quickly grow to become a cumulonimbus cloud and continue to grow into a cumulonimbus incus cloud.

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Latin pilleus (a felt cap).


pileus (plural pilei)

  1. The cap of a mushroom.
  2. The bell of a jellyfish.
  3. (meteorology) A small thin cloud attached to a cumulus cloud. A cap cloud.
  4. A conical felt hat worn in ancient Rome and Greece.
  5. The top of the head of a bird, from the bill to the nape.






pīleus m (genitive pīleī); second declension

  1. Alternative spelling of pilleus


Second declension.

Case Singular Plural
nominative pīleus pīleī
genitive pīleī pīleōrum
dative pīleō pīleīs
accusative pīleum pīleōs
ablative pīleō pīleīs
vocative pīlee pīleī


Definitions by https://www.wiktionary.org/
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