GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — When was the last time you looked at that big beautiful blue sky to check out what fun cloud shapes are hanging around up there? Although there are many different types of clouds, no two clouds are the same.
Understanding cloud formation can indirectly explain why clouds come in all different shapes and sizes. This whole process has everything to do with evaporation at Earth’s surface.
Water vapor from the surface floats in the atmosphere. As that water vapor moves throughout the atmosphere, it latches onto dust particles. Once this happens, very tiny water droplets form. A large amount of water droplets condensing creates cloud drops. Eventually, the number of cloud drops gather together to make a cloud.
Cloud shape is generally determined by the air surrounding it. In all areas of the atmosphere, the temperature is always changing, which affects the shape of clouds.When particles are really high in the atmosphere with freezing temperatures, ice crystals form, creating wispy clouds.
Air closer to the surface is warmer, so particles floating around in the lower levels of the atmosphere don’t freeze, but rather remain liquid. These wet clouds tend to be very fluffy. These types of clouds are often able to create a blanket completely covering the sky.
Wind also plays a role in cloud shape. With winds blowing in all sorts of different directions, clouds can either be smooshed together or stretched apart.
Next time you are outside, check out those cloud shapes. Now you know what creates them.