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Types Of Cumulus Clouds: Interesting Details Revealed For Kids

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Cloud watching has got to be one of the most relaxing activities.

While it is fascinating to catch a glimpse of some of the rarest cloud types on the planet, like the Mammatus clouds or cirrocumulus clouds, it is also intriguing to unravel the mysteries surrounding the cumulus cloud, a relatively common cloud. A cumulus cloud occurs 6600 ft (2012 m) above the ground and is made up of water vapor or at times, ice crystals.

The heating of air above the ground results in the formation of a cumulus cloud. Catching the glimpse of a cumulus cloud in the sky would usually mean the day ahead will have pleasant weather, with the occurrence of precipitation being less than likely. These clouds brilliantly reflect the rays of the sun and appear like fluffy heaps. However, at times, the cumulus clouds attain an impressive vertical height, growing into cumulonimbus clouds, which bring heavy precipitation with thunder and lighting. In fact, it is cumulonimbus clouds that produce hail. A cumulus cloud is categorized into four species, with three of those species not occurring in other clouds.

If you like this article, then remember to check out types of clouds and types of cactus here on Kidadl.

Formation Of Cumulus Clouds

The formation of cumulus clouds is a fascinating read, as this is one of the most common cloud types visible to us on a day-to-day basis. So, let us now dive into all the facts related to how cumulus clouds form!

It is often said that cumulus clouds are the visible manifestation of atmospheric convection. Do you know what atmospheric convection is? Simply put, atmospheric convection refers to the movement of heat and moisture in a vertical direction, from Earth's surface to the layers of the atmosphere. This phenomenon is the main driving force behind the formation of cumulus clouds in the sky.

When the surface of the Earth is warm it heats up the air directly above it, which rises as it becomes lighter. The air rises in the form of 'bubbles' which are referred to as 'thermals'. However, once these bubbles reach a certain altitude, the air inside them starts cooling down. This phenomenon is aided by adiabatic expansion. The decrease in temperature also causes the relative humidity to rise. Eventually, the relative humidity becomes more than 100 %. The remarkable rise of relative humidity levels causes condensation of the water vapor, which in turn releases latent heat. In science, latent heat is described as the amount of heat that is absorbed or released by a system when it changes from one state to another. In this case, the condensation of water vapor releases energy in the form of heat which imparts further convection, sustaining this entire cycle of events. Ultimately, the water vapor condenses on the plenty of molecules present in the sky, resulting in the formation of the cumulus cloud type. It is essential to mention, depending on the surrounding temperature, cumulus clouds can also form from ice crystals, instead of water vapor.

One of the more amusing features about the cumulus clouds is that in coastal regions these low altitude clouds form both over the land and the sea or ocean, depending on the time of the day. This is because, during the morning convection occurs on land, whereas at night, the effect takes place from the surface of the waterbody.

What is the difference between cirrus and cumulus clouds?

One of the main differences between cirrus clouds and cumulus clouds is that the former variant is found high up in the atmosphere, while the latter cloud is found much closer to the ground.

The cirrus cloud types are categorized as high-level cloud variants that have a wispy and thin texture. On the other hand, the cumulus clouds are low-level clouds that are also found in a more independent or free-convective nature while the cirrus clouds often form a thin white sheet. A common way of identifying the two is that the cumulus clouds will appear much fuller and dense in comparison to the thin layer of cirrus clouds. Similarly, the cumulus clouds have defined edges that deflect the sun rays, but the cloud itself can block the sun. However, due to the veil-like feature of the cirrus cloud, it isn't able to hide the sun. By far the best aspect of cirrus clouds have to be the way these clouds reflect the color of sunrises and sunsets due to the thin density. On top of that, being present in the high altitudes of the earth's atmosphere, the cirrus cloud types are made of ice particles, while the cumulus clouds are generally formed of water droplets. Both the cirrus and the cumulus clouds are part of the four most common clouds, the other two being stratus and nimbus.

Identifying the shape of cumulus clouds is fun.

What weather do the cumulus clouds bring?

Even though the cumulus clouds you observe every day may seem like they are covering the whole sky, these clouds are generally not associated with any form of precipitation or rain. On the contrary, cumulus cloud types are indicators of pleasant and fair weather. However, a variety of other factors can influence and change the situation. Now, let us learn how.

Cumulus clouds are regarded as the precursors of cumulonimbus clouds. This is because, when a species of cumulus cloud, known as cumulus congestus continues to grow upward due to an updraft, it turns into a cumulonimbus cloud. Cumulonimbus clouds are known to produce precipitation. All forms of precipitation, including rain, hail, and snow are associated with these clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds are capable of producing heavy rain, snow, or hail along with tornadoes, lightning, and thunder.

The cloud base of the cumulonimbus clouds is quite dark in appearance and is present at least 1000 ft (305 m) above the ground. However, since these clouds have a significant expansion in the vertical direction, the upper portion of the clouds usually reach a height of 39000 ft (11887.2 m) or even more. One of the reasons behind these clouds producing so much rain is the height.

How do you identify a cumulus cloud?

The identification of cumulus clouds is quite easy, once you know how to look out for their characteristic features. Interestingly, the name 'Cumulus' has its source in Latin and refers to the meaning 'heap'. Needless to say, the name of this cloud is the first clue as to how it looks. Just like a pile or heap, these clouds also appear to be in a heaped-up form.

Overall, cumulus clouds look very puffy and almost like cotton candy that's floating in the sky. The top of the cloud is rounded, while its base mostly remains flat. Cumulus clouds may appear in solitary forms or even in groups. At times, cumulus clouds form in lines. Such lines are known as cloud streets and can cover more than 298 mi (480 km) in distance. Another aesthetic feature about this cloud type is the brilliant way in which it reflects sunlight. The upper portion of this cloud, which reflects sunlight, has a bright white hue, while the rest is comparatively darker.

Now, let us learn about the species of cumulus clouds and how to identify them. In total, the cumulus has four species of clouds under it, namely Cumulus mediocris, Cumulus humilis, Cumulus fractus, and Cumulus congestus.

Cumulus humilis clouds have bigger width than length, meaning, the clouds are wider than taller. These clouds have a very puffy appearance and look flattened, overall. This species of cumulus indicate fair weather devoid of any precipitation like rain or any other form of severe weather.

Cumulus mediocris species have the same length and width. Interestingly, only cumulus clouds have this species, since no other clouds have a 'mediocris' form. Much like the Cumulus humilis species, Cumulus mediocris also looks fluffy and white.

The infamous Cumulus congestus clouds are known for being the towering cumulus type, which has a greater height than width. These clouds occupy similar altitudes to not only low and mid-level clouds but also high-level clouds. In terms of physical characteristics, Cumulus congestus resembles a cauliflower shape and is dark in color. This cloud may also get a cap-like structure on its upper portion, known as pileus.

Cumulus fractus clouds belonging to the Cumulus species are known for having a broken appearance, which makes them look rugged. These clouds are often mistaken for stratus clouds. However, unlike stratus clouds, the Cumulus fractus clouds have a fluffy look and have visible details. Fractus clouds usually appear in a clear sky and lead to the formation of bigger cumulus clouds.

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 cumulus clouds: interesting details revealed for kids, then why not take a look at should animals be kept in zoos, here's the truth about wild animals or major rivers in Argentina: curious facts on Paraguay river revealed?

Written By
Kidadl Team

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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