Clouds and Precipitation
There are several types of clouds appearing in the sky throughout the year. The different types of clouds may result in weather that can bring rain or snow, or may simply prevent the sun from shining brightly in an area. Tiny water droplets or ice crystals is what makes up a cloud.
There are three basic cloud forms:
1. stratus clouds: these clouds form in a blanket-like layer
2. cumulus clouds: these are puffy clouds that appear to raise up from a flat bottom
3. cirrus clouds: these clouds form at very high altitudes out of ice crystals and have a wispy, feather-like shape
The term nimbus is added to the name of the cloud if the cloud brings rain or snow to an area. The height of a cloud allows the cloud to be grouped into a family.
The families of the clouds are as follows:
Low clouds, middle clouds, high clouds, clouds that develop upwards, clouds of vertical development
Thunderstorms come from cumulonimbus clouds and are developed upward.
Another type of cloud many people do not think of as a cloud, is fog. Fog is a cloud that forms at ground level. Another example of fog can sometimes occur after a hot shower, the water vapor is in the air and a person may have trouble seeing through it.
Any form of water particles that falls from the atmosphere, or one of the clouds, and reaches the ground is called precipitation. This occurs when the water droplets or ice crystals in the cloud join together and become heavy enough to fall. This is the way precipitation occurs. It will depend on the temperature in the cloud and in the air whether the precipitation is going to be snow or rain.
Larger raindrops have a better chance of developing in tall clouds where the drops have a better chance of colliding into each other and forming a bigger drop before they hit the Earth' surface.
Large cumulus clouds often develop heavy precipitation. Stratus clouds develop long lasting precipitation, but with smaller drops of rain or snow flakes. Vertical developing clouds hold the most amount of water. They are very turbulent or violent often causing heavy downpours of rain or even large amounts of snow in a short period of time. Sometimes when this happens it may be called a 'cloudburst'. Vertical clouds can also develop ice pellets which will cause hail and sleet as precipitation.
In summary, there are three basic cloud forms; stratus, cumulus, and cirrus. Each of the cloud forms have a different appearance in the sky. When the term nimbus is added to the name of the cloud, it means the cloud will bring rain or snow to the area. It will snow or rain when the water droplets or ice crystals in the sky are too heavy and fall to the ground as precipitation. The different types of cloud formations, along with the temperature of the air, results in rain, snow, sleet, or hail. Sometimes, though, the clouds will partially block the sun and it will be a cloudy, partly cloudy, or mostly cloudy day. The more clouds there are, there is usually a better chance of precipitation.
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