Weather - Cloud Formations
There are many different types of clouds.

Weather - Cloud Formations

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Have you ever played the game of finding familiar shapes in clouds? It’s a fun game to play! Clouds are part of our weather system and cloud formations are categorized into three different groups based upon their altitude. There are low-level clouds, middle-level clouds and high-level clouds. However, even these groups contain other forms of clouds such as vertical clouds and special clouds.

Each cloud form develops under specific weather and/or temperature conditions in the Earth’s troposphere (the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere). There are clouds that can form above the troposphere into the Earth’s upper atmosphere (the stratosphere and mesosphere), but these occurrences are rare.

The first condition necessary for a cloud to form deals with the degree of sunlight on the Earth’s surface. As the sunlight heats the Earth or bodies of water, moisture begins to evaporate and rise into the air as water molecules. As the water molecules rise, they reach the cooler temperatures in the altitude. The higher the water molecules rise, the cooler the surrounding air temperature is. The cooler air then causes the molecules to condense. Finally, the condensed water molecules collect dust particles and a cloud is formed.

TYPES OF CLOUDS

1. The low-level clouds include:

  • Stratus – This is a low, grey cloud that has a flat base.
  • Stratocumulus – These are large, dark rounded clouds that are usually found in groups, lines or waves.
  • Nimbostratus – These clouds are dark grey clouds and do not have any specific form.

2. The middle-level clouds include:

  • Altocumulus – These are grey, puffy clouds. They often appear as though they are rolling waves and are generally found in the morning sky.
  • Altostratus – These are a greyish-blue cloud that covers the entire or nearly the entire sky.

3. The high-level clouds include.

  • Cirrus – These are the highest clouds and are composed of ice crystals. They are thin, wispy clouds. They are seen during fair weather.
  • Cirrocumulus – These are patches of clouds that contain many tiny clouds within them.
  • Cirrostratus – These are very thin, almost transparent clouds that look almost like a sheet of ice.

4. Vertical Development Clouds include:

  • Cumulus – These clouds are vertical and have distinct edges. They often resemble popcorn.
  • Cumulonimbus – These are very tall clouds, usually dark in nature and are mostly seen during thunderstorms and other inclement weather conditions.

They sometimes appear in a mushroom shape.

5. Special Clouds include:

  • Fog – Clouds that are suspended in the air that are near the Earth’s surface.
  • Mammatus – These are pouches of clouds that hang underneath other clouds.
  • Lenticular – These clouds often look like a contact lens.
  • Contrails – These are artificial clouds formed by the exhaust of aircrafts.

THE STUDY OF CLOUDS

The study of weather conditions is known as meteorology and a person who studies weather conditions is a meteorologist. However, the specific study of clouds and cloud formations is known as nephology while a person whose focus is on clouds is a nephologist.

IMPORTANCE OF CLOUDS

Clouds are an important part of the Earth’s weather system because they:

  1. Create a water cycle that helps plants and life grow;
  2. Protect the Earth from becoming too hot;
  3. Protect the Earth and people from damaging ultraviolet rays; and
  4. Reflect light, another source of energy for plants and animals.

So, the next time you look up at the sky and see clouds, see if you can determine what kind of cloud it is and then think about the benefits that cloud brings. Clouds are truly amazing beyond being beautiful and fascinating.

Now let’s see just how much you have learned about clouds. Read over the next ten question and see if you can find the correct answers.

1.
Altocumulus clouds are __________ clouds.
vertical
low-level
middle-level
high-level
Altocumulus clouds are middle-level clouds. Answer (c) is correct
2.
Clouds generally form in the Earth’s __________.
stratosphere
atmosphere
troposphere
mesosphere
Clouds generally form in the Earth’s troposphere, which is the lowest part of the Earth’s atmosphere. Answer (c) is correct
3.
These clouds are vertical and have distinct edges. They often resemble popcorn.
Stratus clouds
Lenticular clouds
Cumulus clouds
Cirrus clouds
Cumulus clouds are vertical and have distinct edges. They often resemble popcorn. Answer (c) is correct
4.
These are large, dark rounded clouds that are usually found in groups, lines or waves.
Stratoculumus clouds
Cumulonimbus clouds
Altostratus clouds
Mammatus clouds
Stratocumulus clouds are large, dark rounded clouds that are usually found in groups, lines or waves. Answer (a) is correct
5.
As the sunlight heats the Earth or bodies of water, moisture begins to evaporate and rise into the air as ________.
water molecules
clouds
vapors
mist
As the sunlight heats the Earth or bodies of water, moisture begins to evaporate and rise into the air as water molecules. Answer (a) is correct
6.
Cirrus clouds are ________ clouds.
vertical
low-level
middle-level
high-level
Cirrus clouds are high-level clouds. Answer (d) is correct
7.
These clouds are suspended in the air and are near the Earth’s surface.
Contrails
Fog clouds
Cirrostratus clouds
Lenticular clouds
Fog clouds are suspended in the air and are near the Earth’s surface. Answer (b) is correct
8.
Condensed water molecules collect _______ and a cloud is formed.
sun rays
dust particles
altitude
debris
Condensed water molecules collect dust particles and a cloud is formed. Answer (b) is correct
9.
The study of weather conditions is known as ______.
meteorology
nephology
astrology
nephrology
The study of weather conditions is known as meteorology. Answer (a) is correct
10.
These are artificial clouds formed by the exhaust of aircrafts.
Lenticular clouds
Fog clouds
Nimbostratus clouds
Contrails
Contrails are artificial clouds formed by the exhaust of aircrafts. Answer (d) is correct
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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