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Earth Science for Kids

Weather - Clouds

We see clouds nearly everyday. They float in the sky above us and block out the Sun. Sometimes clouds are white and puffy. Sometimes they are dark and cover the entire sky. Different kinds of clouds can mean different kinds of weather. Meteorologists study the formation and make up of clouds to understand the weather better.

What are clouds made of?

Clouds are made up of tiny droplets or frozen crystals of water.
How do clouds form?

Most clouds form as warm air rises in the atmosphere and cools down. All air contains some water vapor and warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air. As warm air cools the water vapor turns into tiny droplets of water or ice. As more and more air cools down, more droplets form and they eventually become a cloud.

Cloud Levels

Clouds are often described by the level or elevation where they form. There are high, middle, and low level clouds.
Types of Clouds

Meteorologists combine cloud characteristics and levels to get the ten main cloud types:

1. Cirrus - Cirrus clouds are high level clouds that are thin and wispy. They appear during good weather.

2. Cirrocumulus - These are high clouds that look like tiny cotton balls bunched together.

3. Cirrostratus - High, flat clouds that might cover the sky making it appear overcast. These clouds signal that it may rain in the next day or so.

4. Altostratus - Medium level clouds that form a dark gray covering. Usually they are a sign of rain.

5. Altocumulus - Middle level clouds that are small, white, and puffy.

6. Nimbostratus - These are thick, dark gray middle level to low level clouds. They usually bring rain or snow.

7. Stratus - Stratus clouds are low level clouds that are flat and tend to cover much of the sky. They are gray in color and may produce light rain or drizzle.

8. Stratocumulus - These are low, puffy, and gray clouds. They may produce a little rain and can turn into nimbostratus clouds.

9. Cumulus - Cumulus clouds are low to mid-level clouds. They are big, white, puffy, and beautiful clouds. They usually mean good weather unless they grow really tall and turn into cumulonimbus clouds.

10. Cumulonimbus - Cumulonimbus clouds are very tall clouds that span all the way from low level to high level. They can cause violent thunderstorms with heavy rain, hail, and even tornadoes.

How do clouds float?

If clouds are made of water, then how do they float in the air? It turns out that the droplets of water are very small, but they have a lot of surface area that keeps them from falling. Sort of like a spec of dust that you see floating in the air. However, even being very small and light, they would eventually fall if it wasn't for the warm air rising below them keeping them up. Remember that clouds form when rising warm air cools. This warm air helps to keep clouds floating.

Interesting Facts about Clouds

Earth Science Subjects

Composition of the Earth
Plate Tectonics
Soil Science
The Water Cycle
Geology Glossary and Terms

Nutrient Cycles
Food Chain and Web
Carbon Cycle
Oxygen Cycle
Water Cycle
Nitrogen Cycle
Atmosphere and Weather
Dangerous Weather
Weather Forecasting
Weather Glossary and Terms

World Biomes
Biomes and Ecosystems
Tropical Rainforest
Temperate Forest
Taiga Forest
Coral Reef
Environmental Issues
Land Pollution
Air Pollution
Water Pollution
Ozone Layer
Global Warming

Renewable Energy Sources
Renewable Energy
Biomass Energy
Geothermal Energy
Solar Power
Wave and Tidal Energy
Wind Power

Ocean Waves and Currents
Ocean Tides
Ice Age
Forest Fires
Phases of the Moon

Science >> Earth Science for Kids

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