Cumulus clouds appear as large puff balls floating around in the sky. In flat land areas they are seen most often near the tree tops and at a point where earth and sky meet. Without question, they ‘re a wonderful sight for those who stand spellbound gazing at them. Careful though, change comes fast and their appearance changes suddenly. Look again in five or ten minutes and they’ll be gone.
What causes cumulus clouds or under what conditions do they arise and float around in the sky? They are air propelled. The rising air from earth gives them their buoyancy. The water vapor within cools and causes small water droplets. Those just recently formed have clearly defined edges, those having been there longer appear ragged and uneven. The air dispersing among them is what gives them this thin gauzy effect near their edges. These too may break off and form new baby clouds. Since clouds are formed by raindrops cumulus clouds often are forerunners of rainstorms.
The colder air and their downward movement gives them distance from each other. When the air is warmer, it often appears that the gently rolling irregular patches of fluff are stacked one on the other. This is not the norm however. Most often they drift alone and do not touch. Slowly they drift farther apart and then dissipate into the air itself. Or they turn into dark and gloomy and fearsome rain clouds. This can happen in less than an hour’s time. You’ve first noticed these unusual cloud formations and the next time you look they are dark and foreboding.
How do they turn into rain clouds? Cumulus clouds are flattened and are mainly horizontal, when they become vertical they are turning into rain clouds. These then are renamed into cumulonimbus clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds are clouds that have emerged from the happy time clouds into foreboding storm clouds that often precede thunderous rainstorms, hail and even tornadoes. Again it all depends on the weather and the force of the heat and cold blasting against each other.
Clouds in general are formed from condensation. How they are formed and into what shape depends on the weather. Weather is a general term descriptive of the phenomena and interactions of air, water, heat cold and geography of the earth’s surface over which the action takes place. Understand this and you will understand the weather; somewhat. Learning about the cloud formations is the easiest part of this study. The various cloud shapes are: stratus, nimbus, cumulus, altocumulus, altostratus, cirrocumulus, cumulonimbus. Weather as explained by an online educational site has it’s own recipe. The components are “temperature, volume, density, pressure”. They say “mix these all up and you have weather.” I say add these to cumulus clouds and you could get yourself really into hot water or hot weather, or both. What Robert Frost had to say about March weather easily applies to weather in general, especially March weather.
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill. / You know how it is with an April day / When the sun is out and the wind is still, /You’re one month on in the middle of May. / But if you so much as dare to speak, / A cloud comes over the sunlit arch, /A wind comes off a frozen peak, /And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”