It has long been known that trade wind cumulus and deep cumulonimbus represent primary components of the broad spectrum of cumulus clouds in the Tropics, which has led to the concept of a bimodal distribution of tropical clouds. However, recent analyses of shipboard radar data from Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (COARE) provide evidence of abundant populations of a third cloud type, cumulus congestus. Congestus clouds constitute over half the precipitating convective clouds in COARE and contribute over one-quarter of the total convective rainfall. Global Atmospheric Research Program Atlantic Tropical Experiment studies reveal a similar midlevel peak in the distribution of radar-echo tops. These findings lead to the conclusion that shallow cumulus, congestus, and cumulonimbus are all prominent tropical cumulus cloud types. They are associated with trimodal distributions of divergence, cloud detrainment, and fractional cloudiness in the Tropics.The peaks in the distributions of radar-echo tops for these three cloud types are in close proximity to prominent stable layers that exist over the Pacific warm pool and the tropical eastern Atlantic: near 2 km (the trade stable layer), 5 km (near 0°C), and 15-16 km (the tropopause). These stable layers are inferred to inhibit cloud growth and promote cloud detrainment. The 0°C stable layer can produce detrainment from cumulonimbi (attendant shelf clouds) and help retard the growth of precipitation-laden and strongly entraining congestus clouds. Moreover, restriction of growth of congestus clouds to just above the 0°C level limits further enhancement of cloud buoyancy through glaciation.The three cloud types are found to vary significantly during COARE on the timescale of the 30-60-day intraseasonal oscillation. The specific roles of clouds of the congestus variety in the general circulation are not yet clear, but some (the shallower ones) contribute to moistening and preconditioning the atmosphere for deep convection; others (the deeper ones) contribute an important fraction of the total tropical rainfall, and both likely produce many midlevel clouds, thereby modulating the radiative heating of the tropical atmosphere.