When you look up in the sky what do you see? You see lots of blue, you see the sun, and most days you see pillows of white, fluffy clouds floating along as if they don’t have a care in the world.
As you watch the clouds you probably find different shapes ‘hiding’ in them. You know—things like elephants, butterflies, snowmen and even an old man. But have you ever wondered where the clouds come from or what they are made out of?
What are clouds and how are clouds made
Clouds are made out of water—little drops of water. A single cloud can be made of millions of water droplets.
Clouds are formed when the sun pulls water up from the ground into the sky. This is called evaporation. When the water gets there, the cooler air in the sky pulls the water together and ta-da!
Clouds are formed.
When the water gathers together it is called condensation.
Why do clouds float
When the water evaporates into the air, it is warmer than the air in the sky. The water cools down enough to clump together to make the clouds, but it doesn’t cool down to the same temperature as the air around it. Because the cold air is heavier, the warmer air of the cloud holds it up above the colder air. In other words, it floats.
When we see the clouds moving across the sky, they are floating, but they are also being blown around by the wind. The clouds that are being moved by the jet stream are moving at a speed of about 100 miles per hour! The jet stream is a strong wind that blows across the earth. It moves from east to west and is very high up in the atmosphere.
Storm clouds move at a much slower speed—about 30 miles per hour.
The different types of clouds
There are several different types of clouds, but the four main types of clouds are stratus, cirrus, alto, and cumulus.
Stratus clouds are flat and look like big white sheets of paper floating through the sky. Stratus clouds are gray and usually cover most of the sky. They don’t hold much moisture, so they don’t bring any rain or snow. They just make the day dull and dreary-looking.
Cirrus clouds are thin and stringy. Cirrus clouds are almost always the highest clouds in the sky. Cirrus clouds are made mostly of ice. This is because they are so high in the atmosphere where the air is very cold.
A sky full of cirrus clouds usually means the weather is going to change (snow or rain) within 24 to 48 hours. You can tell which direction the storm is coming from by watching which way the clouds are moving. If they are moving west to east, the storm is coming from the west.
Cumulus clouds are the big puffy, cottony looking clouds we like to find shapes in. This makes the cumulus cloud everyone’s favorite kind of cloud. In fact, they are called fair-weather clouds. But they don’t always stay that way.
Cumulus clouds have a flat base and are rounded on top. If the top of the cloud continues to grow or climb, they can turn into storm clouds This happens when they grow tall enough for the winds to flatten their tops into what weather experts call an anvil shape. When this happens, the cumulus clouds become cumulonimbus clouds. A cumulonimbus cloud means trouble (rain or snow storm, hail or tornados).
The other kinds of clouds are combinations of the three main types of clouds. The other types of clouds are: stratocumulus, altostratus, altocumulus, cirrostratus and cirrocumulus.
Alto clouds are called mid-level clouds. That is because they are lower than cirrus clouds but higher in the atmosphere than cumulus or stratus clouds.
Altocumulus clouds are gray and puffy. They are made of ice and water and will usually be part of a large group of clouds. If you see these clouds on a hot, summer day, you can be sure it will storm before the day is over.
Clouds are more than just water
Clouds are more than just water. The dust and chemicals in the air can also travel up into the atmosphere and become trapped in the clouds. That means when it is raining or snowing, more than water or snow is usually falling from the sky. We just can’t see the other things.
Fire is used for;
Precipitation is the word used for the rain, snow, hail, sleet, or ice that falls from the clouds to the ground. The air temperature decides what kind of precipitation we get.
Every day for the next 7 days, look up into the sky several times a day. What kind of clouds do you see?