Clouds are full of water that can easily weigh like a jumbo jet. So why don’t they fall out of the sky? There’s a lot of physics involved in this and science. In the summertime, when the air is dry, the bottoms of the clouds are high. In the wintertime, those clouds hang down low. The humid air has to rise to cool, condense, and make a cloud.
So when there’s more moisture in the air, the air does not have to rise as far to get the cloud to form. Air has moisture in it, and it is evaporated. It will rise and condense. Then we will see the cloud. So the cloud is air, but it has water in it. It’s changing its form from air to moisture, invisible to visible.
How Do Clouds Float?
Clouds appear to float in the sky due to the physical properties of the water vapor and tiny particles present within them. Here’s a simplified explanation of how clouds float:
Formation of Clouds: Clouds are formed when moist air rises, expands and cools. As warm air containing water vapor rises, it encounters colder temperatures at higher altitudes. The cooling causes the water vapor to condense into tiny water droplets or ice crystals, forming clouds.
Buoyancy: The water droplets or ice crystals in clouds are extremely small, typically ranging from a few micrometers to millimeters. These tiny particles are much lighter in larger forms than liquid water or ice. The small size and low density of cloud particles contribute to their ability to float in the air.
Air Density: Clouds are composed of air and suspended water droplets or ice crystals. The density of the cloud is similar to the surrounding air. However, the cloud particles are dispersed throughout the cloud, giving it a visible appearance. The overall density of the cloud is similar enough to the surrounding air that it can remain suspended and appear to float.
Updrafts and Downdrafts: Within a cloud are vertical air movements known as updrafts and downdrafts. Updrafts occur when warm air rises, carrying cloud particles upward. On the other hand, Downdrafts involve sinking air and can occur when rain falls from a cloud. These vertical movements help maintain the cloud’s structure and prevent it from sinking or dispersing.
There are lots of different kinds of clouds. In general weather terms, clouds are big fluffy piles of water vapor that live overhead. As warm, humid air rises through the lower atmosphere, it expands, cools, and some of it condenses into very tiny liquid droplets.
We might get lenticular clouds if the wind pushes it up a mountain like it’s on a ski jump. Humid jet engine exhaust can make wispy cirrus clouds. But maybe the easiest cloud to understand is everyone’s favorite fluffball: cumulus. They’re also the easiest ones to draw.
Warm air is less dense, so it rises like the inside of a lava lamp. Cumulus clouds appear over dark pavement, fires, sunny hillsides any source of warm updrafts. As the water vapor in that air is carried up, it cools, so molecules slow down. Some of them stick together, forming droplets that we can see. Why don’t clouds fall back down after the wind carries them away from the warm updraft?
Because of condensation! When sweat evaporates off your forehead, do you feel cooler? That’s because water moving from liquid to gas takes some heat. Condensation is the opposite. It releases heat. So as the water in a cloud condenses, it heats itself from the inside, staying aloft like a hot air balloon. Da Vinci called them “bodies without surface,” so we can’t live on them.
Scientists found that living, airborne bacteria makeup 20% of cloud condensation nuclei. Not only are they home to airborne ecosystems, but clouds are also, in some ways, very much alive and evolving themselves. The rain that falls from clouds will one day rise again to become new clouds. It’s a very “circle of life.”
Floating clouds explanation by physics
When the air near the land heats up, the Sun rises above the cold air. The hot air is lighter than the cold air, and this warm air contains water vapor. So this water vapor also goes up along with the warm air in the sky. As the water vapor in this warm air goes up in the sky, they reach higher altitudes. But the temperature at higher altitudes is lesser than the temperature on the ground.
Because of this low temperature, water vapor changed into minute water droplets. So clouds are nothing but millions of these water droplets. One of these water particles’ average diameter is about 1 micron across 0.001 millimeters. The effect of gravity is negligible. Clouds are very light in weight. Usually, the weight of one water droplet in the clouds is about 0.050 grams, which is very light.
Air has some force that pushes things in an upward direction. The upward force of rising air is greater than the weight of these water droplets, which means that the water droplets’ weight is lesser than the air force. It pushes anything in the upward direction. So the air force pushes the clouds upwards, helping them stay afloat.
Another reason for floating clouds is the warm air present inside the cloud. The water vapor condenses and is converted from vapors to water droplets. Heat energy is released from them. It heats the air inside the cloud. Also, we all know that warm air is lighter than cold air. Therefore it tends to rise upward and keep the clouds floating in the sky.
Floating clouds explanation by chemistry
The clouds are floating because of buoyancy. The pressure in the air comes from the collisions of molecules. The cloud is hanging, but they want to fall because of gravity. But molecules go and hit it and bounce it back up. So each of these molecules gets because the cloud was moving down dances back down.
It’s falling even at a higher speed but hits them and goes back up because of other molecules. These molecules go down closer to the ground at lower and lower heights.
How high can clouds float & move?
Rain clouds weigh more than regular white clouds. They’re filled with more well rain as more water fills the clouds. They start blocking out the light from the Sun, so they appear grayer and make the rest of the earth dark. How do clouds move?
Clouds float on the amount of water vapor, the air’s temperatures, the wind, and the interplay of other air masses. The average puffy cloud, called a cumulus cloud, floats about one mile above the earth’s surface. Stratus clouds and giant blankets lie across the sky and float about one mile. Wispy clouds in the sky called cirrus clouds float around three and a half miles up the highest clouds. Noctilucent clouds can float up to 53 miles in the sky.
Using cloud height information, you can calculate how far away a cloud or thunderstorm is. If you look up 45 degrees from the horizon, you will make a 45-45-90 right triangle. The two legs of this triangle are the same.
So if you’re looking at a cloud 45 degrees away from you, essentially, you’re looking at a cloud the same distance away as it is up. If you’re looking at a cumulus cloud 45 degrees up and one mile above the earth’s surface, you can conclude that it’s one mile away from thunderstorms.
Ceppi, Paulo; Williams, Ric. “Why clouds are the missing piece in the climate change puzzle.” The Conversation.
World Meteorological Organization, ed., “Cloud Identification Guide, International Cloud Atlas.”
“Cloud.” The Free Dictionary. Farlex.
Frisinger, H. Howard. “Aristotle and his Meteorologica.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
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