Dependent on local climate, which is affected by the distance to the sea, the exposition and the latitude, the altitude varies from 500 m to 4000 m above sea level. Typically, there is a relatively small band of altitude in which the atmospheric environment is suitable for cloud forest development. This is characterized by persistent mist or clouds at the vegetation level, resulting in the reduction of direct sunlight and thus of evapotranspiration. Within cloud forests, much of the precipitation is in the form of fog drip, where fog condenses on tree leaves and then drips onto the ground below.
Tropical cloud forests extend from 23°N to 25°S latitudes and occur in a relatively narrow altitudinal zone with a special atmospheric environment which is characterized by at the vegetation level. Annual rainfall can range from 500 to 10000 mm/year and mean temperature between 8 to 20°C.
The definition of cloud forest can be ambiguous, with many countries not using the term (preferring such terms as Afromontane forest and upper montane rain forest, or more localised terms such as the Bolivian yungas, and the laurisilva of the Atlantic Islands), and occasionally subtropical and even temperate forests in which similar meteorological conditions occur are considered to be cloud forests.
Important areas of cloud forest are in Central- and South America, East- and Central Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, at the Philippines, Papua-New Guinea and in the Caribbean.