Shelf Clouds

Sedgewick Shelf Cloud II
Ryan McGinnis / Getty Images

Like wall clouds, shelf clouds also form underneath thunderstorm clouds. As you can imagine, this fact doesn’t help observers differentiate between the two. While one is easily mistaken for the other to the untrained eye, cloud spotters know that a shelf cloud is associated with thunderstorm outflow (not inflow like wall clouds) and can be found in the storm’s precipitation area (not rain-free area like walls clouds). 

Another hack to telling a shelf cloud and wall cloud apart is to think of rain “sitting” on the shelf and a tornado funnel “coming down” from the wall. 


Source: Means, Tiffany. “Clouds That Spell Severe Weather.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 1, 2021,