A cloud is a suspension of ice crystals and microscopic water droplets in the earth’s atmosphere. They are extremely dense and voluminous masses that appear to the unaided eye. Their size, shape, or colour distinguishes them from one another. Because they are the brightest objects in the visible region of the solar spectrum, they serve a variety of functions in the climate system, including cooling the planet by effectively reflecting light into space.
Clouds form when the air is completely or nearly completely filled with water vapour. Cold air contains less water vapour than warm air. Clouds, which are made of moist air, form as the air cools.
The thunderstorm cloud is a massive, dense cloud that looks like a massive mountain. The upper portion is almost always flattened into the shape of an anvil or a large plume, and it is usually smooth, fibrous, or striated. Under the base of this cloud, there are frequently low, jagged clouds, which are frequently quite dark and may or may not blend with the base. Cumulonimbus Clouds can also produce hail and tornadoes.
Cumulonimbus Clouds Diagram
Here is the diagram for Cumulonimbus Clouds
Cumulonimbus Clouds Formation
Cumulonimbus (from Latin cumulus, “heaped,” and nimbus, “rainstorm”) is a dense, towering vertical cloud formed by water vapour condensing in the lower troposphere and carried upward by powerful buoyant air currents. Water vapour above the lower portions of the cumulonimbus condenses into ice crystals such as snow and graupel, the interaction of which can result in hail and lightning formation, respectively. When these clouds form during a thunderstorm, they are known as thunderheads. Cumulonimbus clouds can form alone, in groups, or along squall lines.
These clouds have the potential to produce lightning as well as other dangerous severe weather, such as tornadoes, high winds, and large hailstones. Cumulonimbus clouds develop from overdeveloped cumulus congestus clouds and may become part of a supercell.
Cumulonimbus Clouds Characteristics
Typically, towering cumulonimbus clouds are accompanied by smaller cumulus clouds. The cumulonimbus base can be several kilometres (miles) across or as small as a few tens of metres (yards) across, occupying low to upper troposphere altitudes – formed at altitudes ranging from 200 to 4,000 m. (700 to 10,000 ft). Peaks typically reach 12,000 m (39,000 ft), with extreme cases reaching 21,000 m (69,000 ft) or higher.
Cumulonimbus clouds with a well-developed top (anvil dome) are distinguished by a flat, anvil-like top caused by wind shear or inversion at the equilibrium level near the tropopause. The shelf of the anvil may precede the vertical component of the main cloud for many kilometres (miles) and be accompanied by lightning.
Rising air parcels occasionally exceed the equilibrium level (due to momentum) and form an overshooting top, culminating at the maximum parcel level. This largest of all clouds, when vertically developed, usually extends through all three cloud regions. In comparison, even the smallest cumulonimbus cloud dwarfs its neighbours.
Difference between Cumulus Clouds and Cumulonimbus Clouds
|Cumulus Clouds||Cumulonimbus Clouds|
|Cumulus clouds appear huge and are dome-shaped.||Cumulonimbus clouds appear like huge mountains and have an anvil-shaped top portion.|
|Cumulus clouds form as a result of vertical airflow.||Cumulus clouds gradually transform into Cumulonimbus clouds as the vertical flow increases.|
|These clouds are grey in colour and are responsible for fair and pleasant weather.||These are dark-coloured clouds which cause thunder and lightning.|
|These clouds are also called ‘Fairweather clouds’.||These clouds are also known as ‘Thunderheads’|
Cumulonimbus Clouds Effects
Cumulonimbus storm cells can produce convective torrential rain (often in the form of a rain shaft), flash flooding, and straight-line winds. Most storm cells die after about 20 minutes, when the precipitation causes more downdraft than updraft, dissipating the energy. If there is enough instability and moisture in the atmosphere (for example, on a hot summer day), the outflowing moisture and gusts from one storm cell can lead to new cells forming just a few kilometres (miles) away a few tens of minutes later, or in some cases hundreds of kilometres (miles) away many hours later. Because of this process, thunderstorm formation (and decay) can last for several hours or even days.
Cumulonimbus clouds can also form as dangerous winter storms known as “thundersnow,” which are associated with particularly intense snowfall rates and blizzard conditions when accompanied by strong winds that reduce visibility even further. Cumulonimbus clouds, on the other hand, are most common in tropical regions and are also common in moist environments during the warm season in the middle latitudes. A haboob is a dust storm caused by a cumulonimbus downburst.
Cumulonimbus Hazards to Aviation
Cumulonimbus clouds pose a significant risk to aviation, owing primarily to strong wind currents, but also to reduced visibility and lightning, as well as icing and hail if flying within the cloud. There is significant turbulence within and around thunderstorms, as well as clear-air turbulence (especially downwind). Wind shear within and beneath a cumulonimbus is frequently intense, with downbursts being responsible for many accidents in previous decades prior to the implementation of training and technological detection and forecasting measures. Because of their rapid onset and rapid changes in wind and aerodynamic conditions over short distances, microbursts are the most frequently implicated in crashes.
Most downbursts have visible precipitation shafts, but dry microbursts are generally invisible to the naked eye. Flying through a tornado was linked to at least one fatal commercial airline accident.
Cumulonimbus Clouds UPSC
During the night, clouds reflect heat back to the earth, keeping it warm. Clouds help to keep it cooler outside by blocking the sun’s rays during the day. Understanding clouds aids in comprehending weather and climate.
As a UPSC aspirant, you should be well-versed with the types of clouds and their specifications.
Cumulonimbus Clouds FAQs
Q) What are clouds?
When the water in the sky condenses, clouds are created. Tiny water droplets or ice crystals have accumulated in the atmosphere of the Earth and become visible as clouds.
Q) What do altocumulus clouds indicate?
Altocumulus clouds are typically associated with calm weather and appear white or grey with shading.
Q) What kind of weather do cumulus clouds bring?
A cumulus usually indicates fair weather and appears on bright sunny days. However, if the conditions are favourable, cumulus can form towering cumulus congestus or cumulonimbus clouds, which can produce showers.
Q) What is fog over the water called?
Sea fog or lake fog are terms used to describe fog that forms over water. When warm, moist air flows over relatively colder waters, it forms. Over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, and other bodies of water, fog can form.
Q) Why are clouds white?
In a cloud, much bigger water droplets scatter the sunlight. As a result, the sunlight continues to be white, which makes the clouds appear white against the background of the blue sky. These spread all colours almost evenly.
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