Clouds - Weather answers questions



May 2016 - Clouds are made of drops of water or ice. When the wind picks up water from the ocean or from the land on Earth, it can carry the water up into the sky. If there's a lot of water drops together, most of the sunlight that hits the cloud reflects off the water or ice and comes to your eye, where it looks white. In a thick cloud, the water drops scatter the light in all directions instead of reflecting it, and the cloud can look gray or black.

Clouds can happen at any height above the ground. Sometimes clouds are actually touching the ground - we call that fog. If you go up to the top of a mountain or in an airplane, you will be above most of the clouds. After it rains, the clouds disappear, because the water they were made of has all come back down to Earth again.

On Earth, there are four main types of clouds:

On other planets, there can be clouds made of other things than water. Venus is covered by thick clouds, but the clouds there are made of drops of sulphuric acid, chlorine, and fluorine, and would be poisonous to you.

Learn by doing: what kind of clouds are in the sky today near you?
More about rain

Bibliography and further reading about the atmosphere:

Learn by Doing - Clouds
More about clouds
More about Thunderstorms
More about Weather home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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