Clouds have always startled everyone with their form. Since childhood, everyone has been eager to know how do clouds form and float so high! The formation of a cloud is a continuous process that goes on with the unseen evaporation of water that condenses into ice crystals. Various tiny particles roam in the air. Aerosol is one of them which helps in condensation.
If you are willing to know about how do clouds form you must also know about the water cycle. The formation of clouds is also a part of the water cycle. The condensed water droplets join with other droplets formed by evaporation to form clouds that rain. Read till the end to know more about the formation of clouds.
Why does a cloud form?
As you are willing to know about how do clouds form, you must also know why the clouds form. A simple answer can be that clouds are formed when the air cannot hold any water droplets further. The saturated air is a result of two reasons:
- The air loses its holding capacity:
The air always absorbs water throughout the day which is invisible to us. It happens due to the continuous evaporation of water by the heat. However, when too much evaporated water is collected by the air, it loses the property of absorption, and slowly the droplets start to form clouds.
- The air has cooled to the dew point:
As the air absorbs water all through the day, evaporation and condensation of water take place in the air. When the air becomes too heavy with condensed air droplets, it loses the state of holding, and thus clouds start to form.
As long as the air is warm, it can hold the most amount of water vapour. Clouds form because the air rises and cools – helping to condense the vapour.
Also Read: Mystery Solved! The Blue Ring Nebula
Types of Clouds
You must have seen various patterns of clouds floating in the sky? Well, each type of cloud has its nature, shape, and color. They are classified into many types for understanding them in a better way. To know how do clouds form you must also know about the types which will help you to understand cloud formation.
Height and shape create the fundamental difference between clouds. While some clouds are puffy like cotton, some are grey and dark. Most of the clouds we see can be split up into high, medium, and low. However, some clouds need to be grouped according to their characteristics and formation.
We are here with the various divisions of clouds to make you understand them better.
- High clouds
The cloud formations above 16,500 feet to 45,000 feet are acclaimed as High clouds. There are three types of cloud forms in this group, the Cirrus cloud, Cirrocumulus cloud, and Cirrostratus cloud.
- Cirrus clouds form their shapes from ice crystals and are delicate, and feathery. The slender and strand-like shape of the clouds appears due to the twisting and turning by the wind.
Weather projection: Sky filled with Cirrus clouds suggests an upcoming change.
- Cirrostratus clouds have a cloak-like shape that covers the whole sky. They appear to be thin and white. Cirrostratus are generally spotted during winter. At times they appear like a halo around the moon or sun.
Weather protection: Cirrocumulus clouds suggest an upcoming rain or snow within a short time.
- Cirrocumulus clouds: If you are concerned about how do clouds form, you must know about cirrocumulus clouds which are patchy, thin, and look like a sheet. They are filled with waves and appear as if small grains are scattered in the sky.
Weather projection: A sky with this type of cloud yields in fair but cold weather. Nevertheless, people staying in tropical provinces consider these clouds as a sign of an upcoming hurricane.
- Middle clouds
The middle clouds or mid-level clouds are those forms that are above 6,500 feet to 23,000 feet above the ground. Three types of cloud formation fall under this group, the Altocumulus clouds, Altostratus clouds, and Nimbostratus clouds about which you should know while learning how do clouds form!
- Altocumulus clouds: These clouds have puffy and patchy white or grey layers of ripples which are lower than the cirrus clouds. Though they appear like rain clouds, they are not so yet they are high.
Weather projection: Seeing altocumulus clouds one can predict fair weather to prevail.
- Altostratus clouds: If you see the whole sky covered with gray or bluish-gray clouds you must know that they are altostratus. They are filled with water droplets that are ready to pour down.
Weather projection: Anyone interested to know about how do clouds form must know about altostratus as they are rain-bearing clouds and seeing the rain or snow can be forecasted.
- Nimbostratus clouds: Nimbostratus are so thick that they block the sunlight. They are gray and dark clouds bringing rain and snow. They are also filled with water droplets and ice crystals that are ready to pour down.
Weather projection: You can have persistent gloomy weather with continuous rain or snow if you see nimbostratus.
- Low clouds
The cloud formations that are at a height less than 6500 feet from ground level are generally referred to as low clouds. Stratus clouds, Stratocumulus clouds, Cumulus clouds, and Cumulonimbus clouds are the four types that fall under this group.
- Stratus clouds: Though Stratus covers the whole sky, it is not yet the ideal rain-bearing clouds. They are very thin white and appear like sheets. It is very rarely seen to produce snow or rain. At times in the mountain regions, they look like fog also.
Weather projection: Having stratus clouds in the sky forecasts gloominess yet fair weather.
- Stratocumulus clouds: Talking about how do clouds form and not knowing stratocumulus clouds is an unfair thing. They are famous for their honeycomb-like appearance that is dark. However, they are often seen as patchy gray and white clouds.
Weather projection: Though the weather remains fair with these clouds, there is a chance of a storm coming up.
- Cumulus clouds: Cumulus is the most commonly seen cloud that is there in the sky. They are not only fluffy but white and appear like cotton balls. They make the evening sky look great. Moreover, they are seen in many sizes and shapes. You can have fun looking at them, they are soothing to the eyes.
Weather projection: It is always normally sunny and fair weather with cumulus up in the sky.
- Cumulonimbus clouds: Cumulonimbus looks like mountains and towers. They are formed during very hot days and are large in shape. Wondering how do clouds form? Well, the wet air rises high and these clouds are formed.
Weather projection: As you see these clouds you must be sure that rain, hail, and tornadoes are waiting to come.
- Unusual clouds
Unusual clouds, also known as special clouds are grouped according to their special circumstantial formation and the vertical way in which they are formed. Four types of clouds fall under this group, Lenticular clouds, Orographic clouds, Mammatus clouds, and Contrail clouds. Being interested in how do clouds form, you should know about these special clouds which signify something different.
- Contrail clouds: Contrails are formed when the water droplets get condensed from the emission of vapor from the jet engines. They are made from the exhausts of high-flying jet planes.
Weather projection: Though it can be called a man-made cloud, still bearing the properties of a cloud, contrails can inform about the moisture layers in the sky.
- Mammatus clouds: Mammatus is a special kind of formation that happens to cirrus clouds, altocumulus clouds, cumulonimbus clouds, and other types of clouds too. This formation is like a pouch that hangs near the bottom of the cloud. They appear like that because the pouches are created as the cold air sinks towards the ground.
Weather projection: These clouds signify that severe weather might be on its way.
- Orographic clouds: While knowing how do clouds form, it is essential to know about the orographic because they are formed from the sea breezes. They also get their shape and form even when the mountains force air to move upwards. The shape of these clouds looks as if they are lines where two points meet.
Weather projection: These clouds bear the message that untimely thunderstorms might show up in the afternoon.
- Lenticular clouds: These clouds look like almonds, lenses, and flying saucers. They are not important geographically as they are just shapes that form in the sky. The shape of these clouds comes as a result of sir rising over a flat landscape.
Weather projection: These clouds are not responsible for any type of weather forecast.
Various categories of the clouds are an important part to know while knowing how do clouds form because you come to know the numerous circumstances in which the clouds are formed.
Steps of cloud formation – Know how do clouds form
Clouds are formed as a part of the earth’s water cycle. To know how do clouds form you should learn about the steps involved in their formation. However, you should also remember that clouds are formed naturally and are made up of billions and billions of water particles. The steps of cloud formation are:
- Step one: The sunlight heats various parts of the earth throughout the day. The radiation from the sun is absorbed in the ground which makes the ground heated. This is the first step you must know about how do clouds form.
- Step two: As the ground starts heating up, it starts to transfer the heat to the air. Even the water from water bodies evaporates in the air making it much hotter. The hot air rises to be cooled and in this way, it reaches above the layer of cool air. This step is also known as the convection step of how do clouds form.
- Step three: The hot air that rises the cool air, is pushed further to rise above the landscape, mountains, cliffs, hills, and sea. This step is named geographic uplift and you must remember this term while knowing how do clouds form. You must also know that the wetter the area is, fast is the speed of air rising upward.
- Step four: Various weather fronts also force the air to rise. This happens as the air mass of two weather fronts differs. In the warm fronts, the moist warm air is forced up the cool air and in the cold fronts, the cool air is pushed beneath the warm air. This step is named frontal lifting or convergence.
- Step five: The reaching of the saturation point of the air is another important part of the formation of the clouds that you must know while learning how do clouds form. As the clouds start to form they acquire air masses. As the air reaches its frost lint, the saturation point is reached. The air cools down at this point slowly. The rising of it also stops. The vapor molecules that were there in the air began to join one another forming greater masses.
- Step six: The final step of cloud formation that you must be familiar with while knowing how do clouds form is the condensation point. The water vapor that was rising with the air now turns into water droplets and ice crystals. They also start joining together so that they can form a big mass.
The condensation may begin at any point or height. Once the various ice crystals and droplets adjoin together, they form the cloud. This cloud may bring rain if it has crossed the saturation point of collecting water droplets. Else it can float around.
Since you know about the various types of clouds and how do clouds form it will be easier for you to understand this natural phenomenon. Clouds are filled with water droplets and are a part of the water cycle. They rise from the ground again and come back as rain. This is a cyclic process that goes on.
However, there are special cases also about cloud formation and we have let you know those ways about how do clouds form!