What are Clouds?
A cloud is a floating mass of water droplets or ice crystals in the atmosphere. When water condenses in the sky, clouds form. Condensation allows us to observe the water vapor. Clouds occur in a variety of shapes and sizes. Clouds play a significant role in the Earth’s weather and climate.
How Do Clouds Form?
Clouds originate in the sky from water. Water may evaporate from the earth due to weak Hydrogen bonds or migrate from other locations. Water vapors is constantly present in the sky in some quantity, but it is invisible. Clouds develop when a region of air cools to the point where the water vapor condenses to liquid.
Air is considered to be “saturated” with water vapors at that stage. The temperature of the air where the cloud develops must be low enough for the water vapors to condense. Water will condense around particles such as dust, ice, or sea salt, which are referred to as condensation nuclei. Temperature, wind, and other environmental factors that influence cloud formation define the kind of cloud that develops.
What are some types of clouds?
Clouds are classified mainly based on two factors: location and form. High clouds develop many kilometers above the earth’s surface, with the precise height determined by the temperatures at the location where they form. Low clouds often develop within a few kilometers of the Earth’s surface. In fact, low clouds may develop that are so close to the earth that they are termed fog. Between low and high clouds, middle-level clouds develop.
- Cirrus clouds are thin and wispy, bending with the wind. Cumulus clouds are often large and fluffy. These clouds have the appearance of gigantic cotton balls or various forms in the sky.
- A middle-level cloud, may also create parallel stripes of clouds.
- Stratus clouds create cloud sheets that blanket the sky.
What Causes Rain?
The majority of the water in clouds is in extremely tiny droplets, yet those droplets may occasionally gather additional water. Then they grow into bigger drops. When this occurs, gravity forces them to fall faster into the air. Rain is falling water droplets. When the temperature drops, the water may condense into snowflakes.
Clouds may also produce freezing rain or sleet. These occur when snow melts on its route to the ground but then becomes colder again. During more severe storms, hail falls. Rain and snow travel about in the sky due to air currents. They get colder and turn into ice as they travel. The ice pieces get larger as they travel. They eventually fall to the earth as hail.
A cloudburst is a sudden heavy rain with hail and thunder that may cause flash floods. Large quantities of water may be dumped rapidly by cloudbursts, such as 25,000 metric tones per square kilometer (1 inch corresponds to 72,300 short tones over one square mile).