How do clouds form

how clouds form in the sky

In the sky we can see numerous types of clouds depending on the environmental conditions in which the atmosphere is found. Each type of salt cloud has a function and consequences for temperatures and weather in the area. However, many people do not know How do clouds form and how important it is that they have one form or another.

For this reason, we are going to dedicate this article to telling you how clouds are formed, what types exist and what importance they have with respect to their shape.

what are clouds

How do clouds form

The surface of our planet is made up of 70% water distributed in oceans, rivers, lakes and ponds. Still, some of this water is always present in clouds, part of the well-known water cycle.

Clouds are hydrometeors, which consist of water droplets, crystals or both, and are important for life on Earth, after all, talking about water is the same thing. Clouds remain suspended in the atmosphere, and their formation (which we will detail later) depends on how much water vapor condenses in the sky.

How do clouds form

cirrus clouds

If you have doubts about how to explain to your child how clouds are formed, or you want to understand it yourself, this explanation will be easy for you to understand. To understand how a cloud is formed, we must first mention that it requires three basic components:

  • Water vapor in the atmosphere.
  • Particles that can condense: such as pollen, salt particles from ocean waves or ashes from fires.
  • Low temperature.

Next, we will describe in detail the process of cloud formation:

  • The water is heated: This is due to the energy of the sun, which evaporates a lot of water in oceans, oceans, rivers and lakes.
  • Plants emit water vapor into the atmosphere: When absorbing water from the soil, this phenomenon occurs, which occurs at the same time as the process mentioned in the first point. For example, it is estimated that an apple tree emits about 6.800 liters of water in the form of steam every six months (subject to availability).
  • The air becomes hot and humid: that is, moist air absorbs more heat and rises to the upper layers of the atmosphere, cooling as it rises.
  • At a certain point, the water vapor condenses: in this way, microscopic sized water droplets are formed.

Therefore, clouds are made up of water droplets. Although cloud formation can vary in some cases, for example when a cloud of warm, moist air rises up the side of a hill, it cools and condenses into clouds. This is the main reason why the mountains are cloudy.

Why do clouds float?

When we think about what clouds look like and the characteristics that define them, the adjective “floating” certainly comes to mind, that is, every time we look up at the sky, we see clouds floating. But why do clouds float?

As we explained before, clouds are made up of small water droplets, so according to the laws of gravity, they should fall to the ground. However, they remain airborne for the following reasons:

  • The water droplets that form the clouds are subject to the force exerted by their weight: the weight is greater than its volume of air.
  • Updrafts of warm air are responsible for keeping clouds afloat.: They disappear when the elements necessary to form clouds (water vapor, particles and temperature) are not present.

Main types of clouds


Clouds are distinguished from one another by their shape, size, and color. But if we take a closer look at what clouds are like, we find 3 types of clouds:

  • Cumulus clouds: They are puffy-looking clouds (cumulus means heap) that originate from rising air currents. Most commonly, their formation occurs during the day and they eventually dissolve at night. Despite their swollen appearance, they are a sign of good weather.
  • Strata: are elongated, horizontal, gray clouds
  • Cirrus: They are clouds of light, subtle and white color. They are clouds formed from ice crystals and are very high in the atmosphere, more than 7.500 meters.

However, many clouds observed in the sky have intermediate characteristics of these types: They are classified as Cirrocumulus, Cirrostratus and Stratocumulus.. Also, the term nimbus is applied to clouds that carry rain. Although cumulus clouds are usually a sign of good weather, when they fill with rain, they are called cumulonimbus clouds. When it comes to rain-filled formations, they are called nimbostratus.

On the other hand, depending on the wind, distinguish between high, medium or low clouds:

High clouds

They are clouds that originate in the atmosphere at a height of 7 km to 13 km. These clouds do not form precipitation, but they can signal changes in the weather. Among the high clouds we can find cirrus, cirrus or cirrostratus.

Medium clouds

They are clouds that form at a height of 3 km to 6 km and do not cause precipitation, that is, they are clouds that totally or partially cover the sky. Also, the clouds in the middle have a uniform appearance.

Low clouds

They are clouds that form below 3 kilometers, and if they are at very low altitudes, they can cause precipitation. They are clouds of vertical development in which we can find strata, cumulus and cumulonimbus. These types of clouds have a cotton-like appearance.

As described in the first section of this article, clouds are carriers of water and essential for all living things. On the one hand, clouds are responsible for providing rain and snow, and on the other hand, they help prevent heat loss. That's why cloudy nights are warmer than starry nights. In the face of global warming, clouds are a great ally since they reflect part of the incident solar radiation on the earth's surface and prevent it from heating the surface itself.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about how clouds are formed and what are the main types that exist.

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