Different types of clouds take on different shapes in the sky, but why is that? Why aren't all the clouds big, fat and fluffy? And are clouds always a sign of rain? As you will find out, clouds have their own special personalities.
Why are there different types of clouds?
All clouds are made the same way: The sun's heat evaporates the water here on the earth, turning the water from a liquid into a vapor. The vapor rises up into the atmosphere and turns back into a liquid through the process of condensation. All these droplets come together around particles in the air and make clouds, but some clouds hold more water vapor or are higher in the sky than others. This is why clouds look different and why some clouds produce rain and others don't.
What are the types of clouds?
Clouds fall into three categories:
Stratus. These types of clouds are low and layered, suggesting that the clouds just might burst open with rain, drizzle or flurries. Fog is a type of stratus cloud, only it happens on the ground instead of in the sky.
Cumulus. Cumulus clouds are the most fun because they take on different shapes, and you can imagine all sorts of creatures in the sky. Most of the time, these fluffy, cottonball-shaped clouds mean the weather will be good, but, if these clouds start to get taller, a storm might happen.
Cirrus. These clouds, which have ice crystals, resemble streaks and are up high in the sky. Since they are so high, they look a lot like the trails left by airplanes. They are also a sign of good weather, and the sun shines right through them.
If rain happens, and streaks are visible from the cloud, then the cloud becomes a nimbus. For example, a tall cumulus cloud becomes a cumulonimbus cloud when the cloud produces rain or a storm, and a stratus cloud that produces rain is a nimbostratus cloud.
Now that you know a little more about the types of clouds, try heading outside and identifying the clouds in the sky. Then, based on what you see, try predicting the weather and find out if it matches up with the weather on the television or in the paper.
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