Types Of Clouds: Curious Facts On Cloud Identification Revealed! | Kidadl

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Types Of Clouds: Curious Facts On Cloud Identification Revealed!

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Have you ever taken your time to look up at the sky and wonder about the wandering clouds?

If not, you should, as there are different types of clouds present in the sky. One of the most interesting experiments can be to set up a time lapse camera and then go over the footage to spot the cloud types.

The idea of a clear sky evokes nostalgia, especially in those people who have had the opportunity to see the brilliant white hue that some clouds have in open environments. On top of that, it's a common childhood activity to spot clouds roaming in the sky to figure out the different shapes. However, the most memorable times have to be when dark gray clouds suddenly seem to appear from nowhere and instantly cover the whole sky to turn a bright day into a gray environment. As most of us still aren't really aware of clouds or their work, we thought of elaborating on the topic.

Do keep reading if you want to know more about clouds.

If you enjoy this article, why not also read about types of coconuts and types of cumulus clouds here on Kidadl.

Process Of Formation Of Clouds

The formation of clouds takes place in a cycle where water droplets bunch together to float around in the sky.

One of the basic things that we need to understand about nature is the water cycle. Without water, no living form would have survived on the Earth, so it's important for clouds to exist as it helps to return back the water to the earth's surface. Now, the water cycle first starts when the water already present on the Earth's surface is evaporated by the heat, turning it into water vapor. You can't see the vapor due to the minute size, but having too much of it in the air leads to high humidity. Now, the air is only able to hold a certain amount of water vapor based on the atmospheric pressure. But, when it reaches full capacity, the water vapor changes either into a liquid or solid through processes of condensation and deposition.

Condensation is the process of water vapor turning into a liquid state, and it usually happens when the vapor holds on to particles like dust, salt, or even sea spray. These particles provide the surface area for the vapor to turn into water droplets, and many such droplets adhere together to form clouds. On the other hand, deposition is when the vapor directly transforms into ice and becomes clouds that can release snow.

Different Types Of Clouds

When it comes to the different types of clouds, the most basic type is based on the position of the cloud in the sky. There are high clouds, middle clouds, and low clouds based on their height from the surface of the Earth.

First, let's discuss high clouds that are situated at high altitudes of around 16,000-43,000 ft (4,876-13,106 m) or about 5-13 km and are made of ice crystals. Three high clouds are cirrus, cirrocumulus, and cirrostratus. The identifier of these clouds is these clouds are quite thin, white and are often defined as wispy clouds. However, these clouds especially look beautiful when the sun is setting. These cirrus clouds have a hair-like appearance and are composed of ice crystals. Because of their thin appearance, cirrus clouds aren't able to block the sun's rays, but they can veil the light when the cloud is too heavy. The cirrus cloud type looks brilliant during the sunrise and sunset as it takes on the sunset's colors.

Cirrocumulus clouds, on the other hand, are thin yet have a sheet-like appearance, and there are small elements to them that make these clouds look grainy. Cirrocumulus clouds are said to be the broken-up state of cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. The third kind are cirrostratus clouds that often cover the whole sky and appear like a full sheet. But, still, these clouds aren't thick enough to block out the sunlight. One of the ways to distinguish between the cirrostratus cloud and a thin stratus cloud is the halo phenomenon often seen in the former variant. Apart from these, there is another variant known as noctilucent clouds, also known as polar mesospheric clouds found in polar regions. However, they aren't linked to the weather like other clouds.

Next are middle clouds or mid-level clouds that are mostly made of water droplets. However, at times when the temperature dips, even these clouds may develop water crystals. First are altocumulus clouds that have a spectacular appearance, especially on bright, clear days. These clouds are mainly composed of rounder masses, laminae (plates), and rolls. As thick clouds, these can obstruct the sun completely. But, when a thin part passes the sun, it often forms a beautiful corona. When it comes to mid-level clouds, altocumulus clouds are seen frequently and can often come along with other clouds. The altocumulus cloud is also said to have a wave-like feature and these clouds may appear as gray patches or white patches.

The next one is the altostratus, and rather than being white, it is a bluish light gray cloud. These striated clouds are too thin to cover the bright sun but would definitely subdue its strength and make it appear blurry. The altostratus may often be seen on a day when it's about to rain and may even come down to the ground to produce light precipitation. Our next cloud is the nimbostratus which seems to have come out of the Harry Potter books. These nimbostratus clouds originate from the thickening of altostratus clouds, and they are thick enough to block out the sun. As these clouds often lower when there is precipitation, some refer to nimbostratus clouds as low-level clouds. However, these clouds are able to reach the height of high-level clouds.

When it comes to low-level types of clouds, there are four variants. First are big fluffy clouds called cumulus clouds that often appear as detached and independent bodies. The upper part of these low clouds forms a cauliflower-like shape. Cumulus clouds tend to have bright white color, and their edges are especially highlighted on a sunny and bright day. These are said to be present on land during the day, where they gradually grow but vanish by nighttime. You may often see cumulus clouds during summer days, giving them the name fair-weather clouds.

Next up are cumulonimbus clouds that often appear as towers and mountains because of their heavy mass. The upper part of these cumulonimbus clouds often has a fibrous appearance along with a flattened shape like that of an anvil. Interestingly, the underside of the cloud base is often quite dark, with vagrant, rounded masses that don't join the base. These clouds do produce precipitation, often in the form of virga or precipitation that evaporates before falling to the surface. These clouds can also produce tornadoes and hail.

Stratocumulus clouds are often dark gray and have a honeycomb appearance, also known as tessellations. These low clouds have a patchy appearance along with rolls and rounded masses. Another cloud that you may not want to see in the sky is the stratus cloud which creates a hazy appearance because of the uniform gray layer. Stratus clouds can bring drizzles, ice prisms, and snow grains, so these are often a predictor of bad weather. When formed near the ground, the stratus cloud is referred to as fog.

These clouds we have mentioned form the top 10 clouds seen in the sky. Apart from these obvious types of clouds, there are some unusual variants like lenticular clouds, mammatus clouds, and Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds which often make it to the news because of their unique shapes. Another common phenomenon is contrails that appear as parallel bands, but these aren't really clouds but vapor trails formed by the combustion of fuel reacting to dirt present in the sky.

Learn about types of clouds to demystify your knowledge of the sky.

Details On The Biggest Clouds

When it comes to the biggest clouds, nothing can beat the cumulonimbus cloud variant because of the huge size.

The cumulonimbus cloud is often said to take up almost miles in the sky and may form supercells. These clouds are formed from smaller cumulus congestus clouds and are classified into two categories: cumulonimbus calvus and cumulonimbus capillatus clouds. During thunderstorms, the cloud may take up an average area of 15 m (24 km). One of the reasons this cloud type looks even bigger is because of accessory clouds that follow them.

Which clouds are associated with thunderstorms?

When it comes to thunderstorm clouds, the only cloud types you need to think about are cumulonimbus clouds.

Also known as the king of clouds, the cumulonimbus cloud is the only cloud type that can create thunderstorms. Its name is derived from 'cumulus' meaning heap, and 'nimbus' meaning rain-bearing clouds. As we have said earlier, these clouds form an anvil-like top and have a rather flat base. Found mostly at the height of the troposphere, these clouds can easily form hail, thunder, and lightning. They are said to form in the sky from the gathering of cumulus clouds over a fairly warm area. The individual cumulonimbus cloud can cause steady rain for about an hour.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for types of clouds: curious facts on cloud identification revealed then why not take a look at 13 unbelievable May birthday facts you probably didn't know, or 21 mind-blowing New York Statue of Liberty facts revealed.

Written By
Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Rajnandini is an art lover and enthusiastically likes to spread her knowledge. With a Master of Arts in English, she has worked as a private tutor and, in the past few years, has moved into content writing for companies such as Writer's Zone. Trilingual Rajnandini has also published work in a supplement for 'The Telegraph', and had her poetry shortlisted in Poems4Peace, an international project. Outside work, her interests include music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading. She is fond of classic British literature.

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