Cumulus clouds look like fluffy cotton. Their base is round and the top has rounded towers. Read on for cool facts on Cumulus clouds.
Shape and name of cumulus clouds
The word “Cumulus” means pile in Latin. Cumulus clouds get their name because they look “piled up” over one another.
A cumulus cloud that resembles the head of a cauliflower is called “towering cumulus” or “cumulus congestus”.
Cumulus cloud formation
Cumulus clouds are formed near the earth when hot wet air rises from the ground. When these clouds are rising, they come across an inversion layer beyond which they no longer remain buoyant. On reaching this layer, they spread sideways.
The condensation of water vapor stored in these clouds depends on the temperature of the surrounding air. When the water vapor cools down, it saturates and falls down as rain.
The formation of clouds that produce thunderstorms
When a cumulus congestus cloud is formed, it continues to grow vertically and may extend upto 12,000 meters. The cloud thus formed is now known as cumulonimbus. Cumulonimbus has a tremendous amount of energy. It can produces lighting, thunder, violent thunderstorms.
Cumulus clouds have a flat base. This is because the accumulated water vapor in the clouds only condenses after it reaches a certain height.
Types of Cumulus clouds
There are several types of Cumulus clouds. These are –
Cumulus Fractus clouds are small cloud fragments that get broken off from a larger fuller cloud, possibly due to strong winds. They have a jagged or shredded appearance. One can usually see them beneath the base of a larger cloud. They look like torn pieces of cotton.
Altitude: 500-3000 m
They are famously known as “fair weather cumulus”. They are low-level, small sized and scattered over a wider area in the sky. They are found between the altitudes 500-3000 m. They are more common in summer. Most usually they dissipate within a few minutes of their formation, but may, on rare occasions, can develop into cumulus mediocris and lead to a thunderstorm.
Altitude: 500-3000 m
Cumulus mediocris are larger than cumulus humilis. They are medium to low-level clouds. They can exhibit some properties of larger cumulus clouds, like reaching a higher vertical extent or taking up the characteristic cauliflower shape. These clouds can cause precipitation of light intensity. There also have a higher probability of forming Cumulus congestus or thunderstorm clouds. Cumulus mediocris is brilliantly white when sunlit, and is dark underneath.
Altitude: up to 6,000 m
Whenever Cumulus clouds are defined, it’s actually the definition of cumulus congestus. They range between cumulus mediocris and cumulonimbus clouds. They have a considerable vertical development. They are characterised by sharp, clear and concise shape with least scattering. They usually cause precipitation, but not heavy.
Strato cumulus clouds
These clouds cover up the whole sky above a region. They are often mistaken for rain clouds. However, they cause precipitation very rarely.
Turkey tower clouds
Turkey tower is an informal term used for the development an individual towering cloud and its sudden snapping. It could be due to weakening of capping inversion.