Clouds

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Clouds are made up of ice crystals and droplets of water. These form when water evaporates from bodies of water, such as the oceans. Once water reaches higher altitudes in the atmosphere, it becomes liquid and solid.

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  • How are clouds formed?

    Q: How are clouds formed?

    A: Clouds are formed when moist, warm air rises and expands in the atmosphere. The rising water vapor condenses and forms small water droplets which make up the clouds. When the water vapor cools, the low temperature of air lowers its capacity to hold water vapor.
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  • How do clouds move?

    Q: How do clouds move?

    A: Clouds move due to wind currents that carry them through the lower levels of Earth's atmosphere. Even if there is no wind felt at ground level, wind constantly blows through the atmosphere carrying clouds, air particles and dust with it.
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  • Why are rain clouds black?

    Q: Why are rain clouds black?

    A: Rain clouds turn gray or black because thick clouds saturated with rain drops scatter sunlight coming through the clouds. When less direct sunlight gets to the bottom of clouds, they appear darker to the human eye. Thin clouds that do not contain a lot of moisture allow enough sunlight through them so that they appear white to observers.
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  • How do clouds make rain?

    Q: How do clouds make rain?

    A: Precipitation occurs when moist air rises to cooler altitudes, condensing the water out of the air into droplets. Once these droplets become heavy enough, often by coalescing around motes of dust or other particles, they fall out of the cloud as precipitation. Without significant updrafts bringing more moisture to the cloud layer, the condensed water may remain light enough to stay aloft, which is why not every cloud brings rain.
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  • What is the name of clouds that look like cotton balls?

    Q: What is the name of clouds that look like cotton balls?

    A: Clouds that look like cotton balls are called cumulus clouds. They form when warm, moist air rises. As this air rises, it cools, condensing into water droplets that become puffy clouds. Cumulus clouds develop from the bottom upward.
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  • What are the three main classifications for clouds?

    Q: What are the three main classifications for clouds?

    A: The main classification for clouds is based on their height above ground and they are categorized as high-level, mid-level and low-level.. Clouds are also identified by their appearance and can be named by combining the root terms cirro, alto, strato, nimbus or cumulus.
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  • What instruments are used to measure cloud cover?

    Q: What instruments are used to measure cloud cover?

    A: In 2008, a group of researchers at Montana State University reported the development of a tool called the Infrared Cloud Imager (ICI), which was designed to collect data on cloud cover. For the novice meteorologist, NASA suggests a few low-tech methods of observing cloud cover, including a spherical sky mirror and a measuring system developed for the naked eye.
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  • What are stratus clouds made of?

    Q: What are stratus clouds made of?

    A: Like all clouds, stratus clouds are made of water vapor, water droplets and even ice crystals. Stratus clouds are identified not by what they are composed of, but by their general appearance, which is uniform, wide-ranging and gray.
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  • What are the types of clouds in a blizzard?

    Q: What are the types of clouds in a blizzard?

    A: Clouds that produce precipitation as rain or snow are called frontal cirrostratus, altostratus and nimbostratus clouds. Nimbostratus clouds produce the most intense precipitation but don't produce all the elements that constitute a blizzard. High winds and low temperatures are also required.
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  • How does wind affect weather?

    Q: How does wind affect weather?

    A: Wind, or air movement, is integral to all types of weather conditions. Air pressure, which is largely caused by differential heating of the air by the sun and ground conditions, controls the way air flows, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. High pressure causes wind to blow slowly down and out, which prevents cloud formation; low pressure causes air to go up, which causes cooling and cloud formation.
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  • What does the saying "Every cloud has a silver lining" mean?

    Q: What does the saying "Every cloud has a silver lining" mean?

    A: The saying is a proverb that means it is possible to find some good aspect to every bad situation. The proverb is commonly said to someone who is facing a great difficulty and can see no positive way forward.
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  • How clouds are made?

    Q: How clouds are made?

    A: Clouds form when warm, moist air rises into the upper atmosphere, where the cooler temperatures cause the water to condense. Depending on the altitude, clouds may be made up of water droplets or ice crystals, and these often form around floating motes of dust or other particles. When too much moisture condenses, the droplets or crystals become too heavy to stay aloft, falling as snow or rain.
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  • How do clouds float?

    Q: How do clouds float?

    A: Clouds float because the water droplets that comprise them are so incredibly tiny that they do not fall very fast. As clouds frequently occur in places that are experiencing updrafts, the force of the air pushing them up offsets the weight of the water droplets. In a cloud of typical size, the water droplets often weigh approximately 1/1000th as much as the air that containing them does.
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  • What are clouds made of?

    Q: What are clouds made of?

    A: Clouds are made up of ice crystals and droplets of water. These form when water evaporates from bodies of water, such as the oceans. Once water reaches higher altitudes in the atmosphere, it becomes liquid and solid.
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  • Q: What kind of cloud is fog?

    A: Fog is a type of stratus cloud. Unlike other clouds, fog forms at ground level when the air on the ground cools, and water vapor condenses into suspended water droplets. This typically occurs in humid weather.
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  • Q: What are rain clouds called?

    A: Most commonly, rain clouds that produce a steady rain are referred to as nimbostratus clouds. These clouds appear low in the sky and are a medium to dark gray color. Sometimes stratus clouds are associated with a light drizzle.
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  • Q: What are the differences between different types of clouds?

    A: The differences among cloud types depend on their altitude and their appearance. There are a few basic types of clouds. They are cirrus, stratus, cumulus and nimbus.
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  • Q: How do cumulus clouds form?

    A: A cumulus cloud develops from the bottom up in a vertical direction. When warm air rises and meets cool air, moisture in the air condenses and cools into water droplets that accumulate in a pile to form cumulus clouds with clearly defined edges.
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  • Q: How do cirrus clouds form?

    A: Cirrus clouds are made up of ice crystals that form when supercooled water droplets freeze. These wispy and thin clouds are usually at elevations higher than 20,000 feet and are created from other clouds that go through a process called glaciation. Cirrus clouds appear in a number of shapes and sizes and are commonly seen in areas with fair weather.
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  • Q: What are nimbus clouds?

    A: Nimbus clouds are cloud types that can indicate some type of precipitation. The word "nimbus" comes from the Latin language and stands for rain. There are two different types of nimbus clouds that indicate the type of precipitation.
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  • Q: What cloud indicates the top of the troposphere?

    A: Cumulonimbus clouds are the tallest clouds in the sky, reaching well into the troposphere. Although the bottom of a cumulonimbus cloud contains water, the top of the cloud reaches so high that it contains ice crystals.
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