What is a Cloud?
A cloud is an accumulation of ice crystals and microscopic water droplets that are suspended in the atmosphere of the earth. They are masses that are extremely dense and voluminous, making them appear to the unaided eye. There are various kinds of clouds. Their size, shape, or colour makes them different from one another. They have a variety of functions in the climate system, such as cooling the planet by effectively reflecting light into space because they are the bright objects in the visible region of the solar spectrum.
When the air is completely or completely filled with water vapour, clouds are created. Compared to cold air, warm air contains more water vapour. Being composed of wet air, clouds form when the air is gradually chilled. As the air cools further, the water vapour and ice crystals within the clouds grow larger and fall to the ground as rain, drizzle, snow, sleet, or hail.
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When airborne water vapour condenses into observable water droplets or ice crystals, clouds are created. Water is always present around us in the form of microscopic gaseous particles known as water vapour. Also present in the air are microscopic particles known as aerosols, which include dust and salt. Aerosols and water vapour frequently collide with one another. Condensation occurs when water vapour from the cooling air adheres to part of the aerosols during a collision. The aerosol particles eventually attract larger water droplets, which eventually start adhering to one another to form clouds.
When the air becomes too saturated to store any more water vapour, clouds form. This can happen in one of two ways:
The air is no longer able to hold any more water due to a rise in the amount of water present, such as evaporation. When the air reaches its dew point, where condensation starts to happen, it becomes too cold for it to hold any more water. More water vapour may be held in the air the warmer it gets. Clouds are typically created through condensation; as air rises, it cools, and as the air gets colder, it loses its capacity to store water vapour, which leads to condensation. Condensation is the height at which the dew point is attained and clouds begin to form.
Types of Clouds
The weather and climate of the planet are significantly influenced by 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.
Water in the sky condenses to produce clouds. The water could travel from other places or evaporate from the earth. Although water vapour is invisible, it is constantly present in the sky in some quantity. When an area of the atmosphere cools down to the point that the water vapour condenses to liquid, clouds are created. In the vicinity of salt, ice, or dust, water will condense.
Importance of Clouds
They are essential during rain or snow. Clouds reflect heat back to the earth during the night, keeping it warm. By blocking the sun’s rays during the day, clouds help to keep it cooler outside. Understanding clouds aids in comprehending weather and climate.
Clouds Classification based on Altitude of Clouds
Based on how they form at various heights, clouds are categorised. In the polar, tropical, etc., regions, Different Types of Clouds form at different altitudes. The classification of clouds and related cloud types are provided in the table below.
|Classification of Clouds||Types of Clouds|
|High Clouds||Cirrus, Cirrostratus, Cirrocumulus|
|Middle Clouds||Altostratus, Altocumulus|
|Low Clouds||Stratocumulus, Nimbostratus|
|Clouds with Extensive Vertical Development||Cumulus, Cumulonimbus|
1. High-Level Clouds
Polar Regions – they form at altitudes of 3000 m (10,000 ft) to 7600 m (25,000 ft).
Temperate Regions – they form at altitudes of 5000 m (16,500 ft) to 12,200 m (40,000 ft).
Tropical Regions – they form at altitudes of 6,100 m (20,000 ft) to 18,300 m (60,000 ft).
2. Mid-Level Clouds
Non-vertical clouds in the middle level are prefixed by the alto. At any latitude, these clouds are formed as low as 2000 m (6500 ft) above the surface. These clouds can be formed as high as 4,000 m (13,000 ft) near the poles These clouds are formed at an altitude of 7,600 m (25,000 ft) in the tropical region.
3. Low-level Clouds
These clouds are formed near the surface up to 2000 m (6500 ft). These types of clouds have no prefixes.
4. Vertical Clouds
These clouds cover the entire atmosphere, from the lower to the higher altitudes. The strong convectional circulation that holds and propels the cloud moisture further upward causes them to form through thermal convection or frontal lifting. The Cumulonimbus cloud is an illustration of a vertical cloud.
5. Foggy Clouds
Stratus cloud layer over or close to the ground. These develop near the earth. Sometimes they reduce visibility to the point where it is difficult to see farther than 60 feet.
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Different Types of Clouds
According to their altitude, stretch, density, and transparency or opaqueness clouds are classified into the following types which are given below.
1. Cirrus Clouds
Detached clouds in the shape of narrow bands or largely white patches with fragile white filaments. They could appear fibrous (hair-like) or silky shine. Cirrus clouds are always made of ice crystals, and the degree of crystal separation determines how transparent they are. Typically, these clouds barely affect the brightness of the sun when they pass over its disc. They might block its light and erase its contour if they are particularly dense. Cirrus frequently has a vivid yellow or red tint before sunrise and after sunset. These clouds begin to glow much earlier than ordinary clouds and fade much longer; they turn grey after sunset.
Transparent, whitish veil clouds that are smooth or appear fibrous (hair-like). An extremely large sheet of cirrostratus almost invariably ends up covering the entire sky. The halo phenomenon that the sun or moon almost always causes in a layer of cirrostratus distinguishes a milky veil of fog (or thin Stratus) from a veil of Cirrostratus with a similar appearance.
Cloud layer, sheet, or patch that is very thin and completely white. They are made up of incredibly tiny particles that resemble more or less uniformly spaced grains or ripples.
4. Cumulus Clouds
Typically, cumulus clouds form between 4,000 and 7,000 metres above sea level. These appear to be cotton wool. They are scattered everywhere and can be found in patches. Their bottom is flat.
Detached, generally dense clouds with sharp outlines that develop vertically in the form of rising mounds, domes, or towers with bulging upper parts often resembling a cauliflower. The sunlit parts of these clouds are mostly brilliant white while their bases are relatively dark and horizontal.
5. Stratus Clouds
A stratus cloud forecasts a cool, cloudy day. A generally grey cloud layer with a uniform base may if thick enough, produce drizzle, ice prisms, or snow grains. When the sun is visible through this cloud, its outline is clearly discernible. Often when a layer of Stratus breaks up and dissipates blue sky is seen.
Sheets or layers of striated or fibrous clouds in shades of grey or blue that completely or partially obscure the sky. They are transparent enough to frequently show the sun as though through ground glass. Both the halo effect and ground shadows are not evident when there are altostratus clouds.
The persistent cloud of rain. This is a dark grey cloud layer that is diffused by rain or snow that is falling. It is caused by thickening Altostratus. It is consistently thick enough to block out the sun. As the downpour continues, the cloud base descends into the low level of clouds.
Lower altitudes are typically where nimbus clouds occur. Nimbus clouds are often black or dark grey in colour. Sunlight is blocked by cumulus clouds. Storms and significant rainfall are typically brought on by these kinds of clouds.
The thunderstorm cloud is a massive, dense cloud that resembles a towering mountain. Usually smooth, fibrous, or striated, the upper portion is almost always flattened into the form of an anvil or a large plume. There are frequently low, jagged clouds beneath the base of this cloud, which is frequently quite dark and may or may not blend with the base. Hail and tornadoes are also produced by cumulonimbus clouds.
Clouds that are white or grey in colour often include black tessellations (like a honeycomb pattern), spherical masses, or rolls. They are not fibrous, with the exception of Virga, and can combine or not.
Laminae (plates), spherical masses, or rolls are the most common components of white and/or grey patches, sheets, or layered clouds. They could be widespread or somewhat fibrous. A corona is seen when an edge or a thin, semi-transparent patch of altocumulus passes in front of the sun or moon. Within a few degrees of the sun or moon, there is a coloured ring that is red on the outside and blue on the inside.
Types of Clouds FAQs
Q) Why are clouds white?
Ans. 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.
Q) What are the 3 main types of clouds?
Ans. Cirrus, Cumulus, and Stratus. There are three primary types of clouds. The fluffy clouds that resemble cotton puffs are known as cumulus clouds. The presence of cumulus clouds that do not become extremely tall indicates good weather.
Q) What is the highest type of cloud?
Ans. The tallest clouds in the sky, known as noctilucent clouds, are not connected to weather like the other clouds in this chart.
Q) What are clouds?
Ans. 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 kind of weather do cumulus clouds bring?
Ans. Cumulus typically implies good weather and appears frequently on sunny, bright days. Although cumulus can develop into massive cumulus congestus or cumulonimbus clouds that can provide precipitation if the right circumstances exist.