Clouds: formation

How Clouds are Formed

Learning Objectives

Understand the difference between invisible water vapor and the water or ice droplets that make up clouds.

This is The Cloud. You know, those white things that float in the sky? Yes, it’s very cute, very cute, yes, it is.

But do not be fooled. Despite their fluffy looks, clouds are very wet, very heavy, and very dirty.

Allow me to explain.

You see, clouds form when water on the earth’s surface is heated enough to become water vapor. If you remember from earlier, this is called evaporation: a liquid entering gas form (Figure1).

(Figure1): Water molecules enter gas form (water vapor) after being heated.

This vapor rises into the atmosphere.

(Figure2):Water molecules condense and stick to dust particles in air.

And as these tiny water molecules ascend, they begin to cool and condense; sticking to tiny particles of dust in the air (Figure 2) to form water droplets (Figure3): and if it’s cold enough, ice crystals. Hence, the snowflake.

(FIgure3): Water molecules cool and condense on dust to form water droplets.

And when these droplets come together? Cloud.

These are what clouds it makes of. Those white sky pillows. Dust water (Figure4).

(FIgure4): Clouds are made of water droplets.

So, let’s go over this again.

  • Water on earth’s surface is heated into water vapor: water molecules in gas form.
  • Water molecules ascend.
  • Water molecules stick to dust and condense.
  • Droplet.
  • Droplets associate to form clouds.
  • Heat, vapor, droplet, cloud (Figure5).
(FIgure4): The cloud formation process; Heat, Water Vapor, Water Droplet, Cloud.

And That is how clouds are formed.

Figures 1-4 by: Jarod Davis Provided by: University of Minnesota. License: CC BY 4.0


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