What’s that Cloud up there?

Mark Gialanella, Community Programs Coordinator

Clouds come in all shapes in sizes. Do you remember looking up into the sky and pretending that you could see all sorts of different shapes in the clouds? There was the cloud that looked like a ship, the one that looked like a dog and the cloud that didn’t look like anything at all. Those clouds have different names and serve a specific purpose. Clouds are formed by a continuous cycle of evaporation and condensation. Tiny drops of water and ice each about .02mm in size join together in this process to form clouds.


Let’s learn about the four main types of clouds – cirrus, cumulus, stratus and nimbus. Cirrus clouds can be found the highest in the atmosphere and are entirely made of frozen water vapor. Cumulus clouds are the fluffy clouds we think of when we picture a cloud. Depending on the season, they can be a sign of good or rainy weather. Stratus clouds are the lowest to the surface of the earth. They are the dark looming clouds you see covering the entire sky before a torrential downpour. Nimbus clouds are the ones that bring our thunderstorms. The nimbus cloud is further classified based on where it is in the atmosphere; nimbostratus clouds are lower in the atmosphere and bring lighter precipitation, while cumulonimbus clouds bring heavy precipitation and thunderstorms. Next time you look up in the air, try to figure out what type of clouds you are seeing and what they are telling you about the weather.

The Mission of the Chattahoochee Nature Center is to connect people with nature. Learn more at www.chattnaturecenter.org.