How Do Clouds Float? (Floating Clouds Explanation)

Floating Clouds

Clouds are full of water that can easily weigh as much as 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 are hanging down low. The humid air has to rise to cool, condense, and make a cloud.

So when there’s a lot 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?

There are lots of different kinds of clouds. In the most 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.

If the wind pushes it up a mountain like it’s on a ski jump, we might get lenticular clouds. 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 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. After the wind carries them away from the warm updraft, why don’t clouds fall back down?

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 with it. 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,” which is why we can’t live on them.

Scientists found that living, airborne bacteria make up 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. As the hot air is lighter than the cold air, 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 present in the clouds is about 0.050 grams of water which is very light in weight.

Air has some force that pushes things in the upward direction. The upward force of rising air is greater than the weight of these water droplets, which means that water droplets’ weight is lesser than the air force. It pushes anything in the upward direction. So the force of air 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, which is converted from vapors to water droplets. Heat energy is released from them. This 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 one of these molecules gets because the cloud was moving down dances back down.

It’s falling even at a higher speed, but it hits them and goes back up because of other molecules. These different molecules go down closer to the ground, which keeps happening at the lower and lower heights.

How high can clouds float & move?

Rain clouds weigh more than regular white clouds. It is because they’re filled with more well rain as more and more water fills up the clouds. They start blocking out the light from the Sun, and that’s why 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 which are giant blankets lying across the sky, float about one mile. Wispy clouds in the sky called cirrus clouds to float around three and a half miles up the highest clouds. Noctilucent clouds can float up to 53 miles in the sky.

You can calculate how far away a cloud or a thunderstorm is using cloud height information. 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 that’s 45 degrees away from you, essentially, you’re looking at a cloud that is the same distance away as it is up. If you’re looking at a cumulus cloud that’s 45 degrees up and it’s one mile above the surface of the earth, you can conclude that it’s one mile away from thunderstorms.

Read More: Why Clouds Are White In Color?


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.

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher. I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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