What are the Different Types of Clouds? | Best Science Review

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Clouds


I don’t know about you, but I happen to like looking at clouds. Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve always enjoyed looking up, seeing the types of clouds that are up there looking for designs, similarities, “Hey, that looks like a castle. That looks like a person. That looks like a hippo.”


Clouds are fascinating things. Today we’re just going to go over types of clouds, so that hopefully the next time you’re outside and you think to look up, not only can you have fun enjoying the different shapes and things that you see in the clouds, especially if it’s sunrise or sunset with the way the sunlight hits it and changes the colors, but you actually will be able to identify the type of cloud it is and understand a little bit about what causes that type of cloud.


We’re just going to go through those briefly. I’m going to list the type of cloud, the name of the cloud, and then give you a concept or a word to associate with that type of cloud. We begin by looking at stratus clouds. Here, what you need to think of is a blanket. What you have is a layer of very cold air and then a layer of warm air that rides over the top of that cold air.


At the boundary between the cold air below and the warm air above, as that warm air begins to cool by coming into contact with that cold air, if it goes below the dew point it condenses out and produces a very uniform cloud bank, or layer, that boundary looks like a blanket. These are stratus clouds. Warm air riding over the top of cold air, producing a sort of blanket look. Next are cumulus clouds.


Cumulus clouds are the ones I tend to think of when I look up in the sky and I see different shapes and designs and whatnot. Here, we need think puffy. Puffy clouds, cottonballs. This is basically warm air that is forced upward. As it goes upward, it cools and condenses out into these big fluffy cottonball-like mounds.


Finally, the last type of cloud we’re going to talk about today are cirrus clouds. Cirrus clouds are extremely high-altitude clouds (7 kilometers above the surface of the earth). Essentially, it’s ice crystals at that level. These thin ice crystals high in the atmosphere, the sunlight passes right through them. Here you need to think in terms of wispy, thin, feathery, as if someone had taken a paint brush and sort of just scraped it across the the sky. Thin, wispy, feathery.


Remember, they are ice crystals at that level. Stratus – blanket. Cumulus – puffy cottonballs. Cirrus – wispy, thin, feathery. These are just the basic types of clouds that you see. I hope you’ll take some time not only to learn this information, but to actually go outside and look up.


We get so busy. We’re living our lives. We look everywhere but up. Look up. Look at the clouds and enjoy what you see there, especially if it’s sunrise or sunset. You’ll get the difference of the light and the colors and all that. As you’re looking, hopefully you’ll remember blanket, puffy cottonballs, or thin wispy and feathery and go, “Oh, I know what that is. Stratus, cumulus, or cirrus.”



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Last updated: 10/15/2018

 

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