Weather Lesson with Ashley Gann: How do clouds form?

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Chief meteorologist Ashley Gann has been answering your weather questions.

Today we talk clouds?

How do they form? Why do they float? How do they get their names?

We’ll start with how they form… Basically a parcel of air (or bubble of air) rises as the sun heats earth’s surface. The temperature is cooler as that parcel rises and the moment when the parcel of air’s temperatures dips below the dewpoint… poof… a cloud is born.

The air around us is made of water vapor, which is a gas, and when it becomes a cloud it essentially is squeezing out all the water and starts developing tiny ice crystals or water droplets. Think condensation and the outside of a bottle that has little water droplets that form when your dink is cold and the air outside is warm. That’s exactly what happens in our atmosphere, just on a much larger scale.

These tiny rain droplets or ice crystals are less dense than air, and that is why they float. The flat base or bottom of the cloud is called the Level of Condensation. And we get that nice flat surface under a cloud.

Clouds also have different names. They are named by where they form in the atmosphere (their height) and the shape they make.

For example: Altocumulus – Alto is Latin for “high”. Although Alto aren’t the highest clouds, they generally form at the mid-latitude levels. Then, cumulus, that means “heaped”. Imagine, piles of heaped cotton balls. That’s exactly what fair weather cumulus clouds are. So, an altocumulus cloud would be a mid-latitude cloud that is growing vertically, or looks like a heap of clouds, rather than a blanket of clouds like on an overcast day.

Now, watch the video for more great names for clouds.

Last thing, I want to see YOUR pictures! Send me pictures of all the clouds you see this week. Let me guess the name or better yet, YOU tell ME the name of the cloud. I’ll be sharing all your creative cloud pictures on my social media channels. Just post your pictures and tag me @gannweather on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!


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