Clouds are the most common feature in our sky. They can be as tiny as a few feet high or miles in length. Clouds change shapes and communicate change in weather! They create a connection between the sky and us and connect us with the water, or hydrological cycle. Fog is actually a low level cloud that you can walk right through as it touches the earth! Low-level clouds, or stratus clouds (below 6,500 feet /2,000 meters), are usually full of water droplets. Mid-level clouds such as large cotton-balled cumulus nimbus or thunderheads appear between (6,500 - 20,000 feet/2,000 - 6,000 meters) and are made of water droplets or ice crystals. High-level clouds - thin, white, wispy mare tails called nimbus, form above 20,000 feet/6,000 meters and reflect the colors of the rainbow at sunrise and sunset. Clouds are classified by their height, size, shape, density, and color. They can bring rain but also storms, such as hurricanes or tornadoes. By knowing cloud types and observing them, we can predict changes in weather.
How well do you know your clouds?
Activity 1 – Cloud Categories!
Research basic cloud types. Get a poster board and paint the earth (or your street) on the bottom fifth of the poster board. Next, research cloud types and locations (low to the ground, middle sky, high in the sky). Using cotton balls, white felt, or watercolors, make a poster that shows the different types of clouds.
Activity 2 – Cloud Collage
Take or find nine photographs of different cloud types. Crop them into small squares after printing them. Arrange them into a nine-square design to create a cloud collage.
Activity 3 – Cloud Calls
Now that you can name the basic cloud types, begin to observe clouds. For one week, keep a cloud journal. Make a note in your journal of the cloud types you notice, along with a quick sketch of what you see. How high are the clouds? Do they cover the whole sky? What shape are they? From your observations, predict what type of weather is coming. Rain clouds are often easy to recognize, but do you know when a storm is forming? To help with your predictions, take a look at Weather Prediction or Cloud Types and Predictions
Activity 4 – A Cloud By Any Other Name...
Have you always thought cloud names have a fun ring to them? Why are clouds called those unusual names? Many of the basic cloud types have names with Latin roots. Find out what’s behind those Latin names here
Cumulus and nimbus may sound unusual, but they aren’t the only curious sounding cloud names. Research and sketch these unusual cloud types:
cloud street, bubble high, banner cloud, accessory cloud, roll cloud, and cap cloud. What other unusual cloud types can you find? Why do you think they have the names that they do? Weather Facts
- What is the main process behind cloud formation?
- What three ingredients must be present for clouds to form?
- Cirrus means:
- Clouds hold ice and water, as well as fumes, smoke, or dust:
- Cumulus clouds:
- Blur Building by Diller and Scofidio Video
- Charles Ryan McBride Cloud Buildings
- Cloud Inspired Design
- Cloud Matching Game
- Cloud Memory Game
- Cloud Shapes
- Cloud Types and Predictions
- Color Vapor Map
- Cool Clouds
- ESSEA Role of Clouds in Climate Change
- Hydrological Cycle
- John Constable Cloud Painter
- Latin Roots
- Make a Fog Chamber: San Francsico Exploratorium
- Make and animate a Cloud Shape in the Sky
- NASA CloudSpeak
- TEDed Cloudy Climate Change
- Weather Whiz Clouds