Environmental Chemistry

Clouds – Definition, Types, and How are Clouds Formed in 6 Steps

We are all surrounded by nature. All things that nature comprises of are always amusing and intriguing. For instance, the trees, animals, clouds, sunlight, everything has unique characteristics. Similarly, clouds are something that always amuses us ever since our childhood. We see the different shapes and sizes of clouds. Moreover, it also makes us wonder how are clouds formed. But first, let us study what clouds are exactly.

how are clouds formed

What are the Clouds?

The thing in the sky that looks like a big piece of cotton is what we call a cloud. It is made up of a large number of ice crystals or water droplets.

Cloud is a very important part of the atmosphere and is present in the sky at a decent height. It’s very essential for the earth’s weather. Clouds are of different types which we will discuss below in addition to how are clouds formed.

Types of Clouds

1. Cirrocumulus: Mackerel Sky: above 18,000 feet

Cirrocumulus clouds are tiny round shaped puffs that are normally visible in the high sky in long rows. But sometimes these clouds are formed in a grey color.

2. Cirrus: above 18,000 feet

Cirrus clouds are the small clouds present in the high sky. These look like hairs and are silky at the same time.

3. Altocumulus : 6,000 to 20,000 feet

These are also known as cloudlets. They usually look like round shaped clumps. Many types of altocumulus clouds are present in the atmosphere. They appear in different types of shapes.

4. Altostratus : 6,000 to 20,000 feet

These are the blue-gray or blue clouds that normally covers the whole sky. Sometimes sun or moon shines through these clouds but is not clearly visible as they get blur.

5. Cumulonimbus: from near the ground to above 50,000 feet

These clouds are dense vertical clouds which form due to the water vapors. People also term them as thunderheads. These clouds can form them alone without depending on anything.

6. Stratocumulus: below 6,000 feet

These clouds are basically genus types of clouds. These clouds are largely dark and round-shaped. These normally form in a group or wave or a line. And these are usually present below 2,000 meters.

7. Stratus: below 6,000 feet

Stratus clouds are the lower-level layers usually we see them in grey or white color. They exist for a long duration. They are at the lowest height and one can find them on the surface as fog or mist sometimes.

8. Cumulus: below 6,000 feet

Cumulus clouds look like a cotton ball in the sky. Its base is usually flat and maybe only 1000 meters or 3400 feet above the earth’s surface level. These clouds have round-shaped towers at the top.

How are Clouds formed?

1. The hot air moves from the lower level to the upper level.
2. The humidity present in the air increases
3. The air converts into a saturated form
4. The water vapor condenses many particles like salt, smoke, dust and other tiny particles present in the atmosphere.
5. Lakhs of small water droplets in liquid form comes together to form a cloud.

Clouds Form in Different Ways

Many clouds form due to the warming up and rising of air near the earth’s surface.

When the sun heats the earth’s surface then the air present on the surface starts rising to the sky as it gets lighter in weight and starts floating upwards.

The moisture that the air condenses is enough to make a cloud. With this process, many clouds form in the atmosphere.

Purpose of clouds

There are many effects of clouds on our climate. They work as a barring for the heat that travels in and out of the earth’s atmosphere.

Questions on Clouds

Ques. Clouds which resemble cotton balls are the:

A. Stratus
B. Cirrus
C. Cumulus
D. Nimbus

Ans. (C) Cumulus

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