Clouds

Which type of cloud is fluffy and resembles a floating piece of cotton?

And the answer: cumulus.

Photo courtesy: thinglink.com.

Usually appearing in fair weather conditions, cumulus clouds are cauliflower-shaped and often described as fluffy or cotton-like. The name comes from the Latin term "cumulo," which means heap or pile.

Decorating the sky every day and night, clouds play an integral role in the life of every living thing on earth. These large groups of water droplets cling to dust in the atmosphere, forming in any number of sizes and at many altitudes. Scientists have developed a system of classification based on their shape and altitude that allows us to group any given cloud into a category. While there can be many combinations of the category groups, the four main types are the cirrus, cumulus, stratus and nimbus.  

The highest clouds in the atmosphere are cirrus clouds. Latin for "curl of hair," cirrus clouds are thin, wispy clouds that form high in the sky and are generally unaffected by weather. Due to the extremely cold temperatures high in the atmosphere, they form out of ice particles and shine brightly white.

Cumulus clouds are quite more robust in appearance. Often resembling puffy cotton, the word "cumulus" is Latin for heap, or pile, much as their appearance implies. Cumulus clouds are vertically developing clouds, which means that they can grow to towering heights (and often do!).

Stratus clouds are thick, grey clouds that often appear foggy and hang low in the atmosphere. In fact, these clouds are so low that they often form from fog that has lifted off of the ground. The word "stratus" comes from the Latin word for layer – fitting, since it's stratus clouds we can thank for our grey, overcast days.

The final main cloud type is the nimbus cloud. "Nimbus" translates to rain in Latin, as these downcast clouds are responsible for rain and thunderstorms. Affixing "nimbo-" to cloud types indicates the presence of rain or other precipitation.

If you've gotten this far, congratulations. You're a bona fide cloud-pro. Impress your local meteorologist even further by learning more about clouds here.


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