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Learn About Types of Clouds for Kids

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How Clouds Form

The air is filled with a gas called water vapor. When the air cools down the vapor condenses or turns into water. This is just like when steam from a hot shower hits a cold mirror. Water droplets called condensation form. Clouds are made up of water droplets or ice crystals.

The different types of clouds depend on what they're made from. Clouds made from water droplets have very noticeable edges. Clouds made from water crystals have fuzzy edges. Clouds that are very thick can look dark because sunlight can't pass through them.

The three main cloud types are stratus, cumulus and cirrus. Each of these types has subtypes.

Clouds appear when there is too much water vapour for the air to hold. The water vapour (gas) then condenses to form tiny water droplets (liquid), and it is the water that makes the cloud visible. These droplets are so small that they stay suspended in the air.


Cirrus, Stratus and Cumulus clouds

Cirrus, Stratus and Cumulus clouds

Types of Clouds

Stratus clouds form in layers. You will often see stratus clouds on gloomy days. They're gray in color and sometimes bring light rain or drizzle. They often cover the entire sky.

  • Nimbostratus clouds bring rain or snow.
  • Stratocumulus clouds are low, puffy and gray. Blue sky is often visible between them and they usually don't bring rain.

Cumulus clouds look like big, puffy pieces of cotton. They form low in the sky and usually predict fair weather. When they get very big they turn into storm clouds called cumulonimbus clouds.

  • Cumulonimbus clouds are storm clouds. They often bring heavy rain, lightning, snow, hail, and in some cases tornadoes.

Cirrus clouds have a wispy appearance. These clouds form at much higher altitudes, which means they're very high in the sky. Because they're so high, they're made out of ice crystals. You will often see cirrus clouds on days with nice weather.

  • Cirrocumulus clouds are small white puffs. They are usually seen in the winter.
  • Cirrostratus clouds are thin, sheet-like clouds that cover most or all of the sky. They usually come hours before rain and snow storms.
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Clouds Quiz: Test Your Knowledge

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which cloud type is made from ice crystals?
    • Stratus Cloud
    • Cirrus Cloud
    • Cumulus Cloud
  2. Which cloud type is puffy?
    • Stratus Cloud
    • Cumulus Cloud
    • Cirrus Cloud
  3. What cloud type forms in layers?
    • Cirrus Cloud
    • Stratus Cloud
    • Cumulus Cloud
  4. What is condensation?
    • A cloud that forms on the ground
    • Water vapor turned into water droplets

Answer Key

  1. Cirrus Cloud
  2. Cumulus Cloud
  3. Stratus Cloud
  4. Water vapor turned into water droplets

Altostratus clouds are gray to bluish-green sheets or layers. The sun is visible through thinner layers.

Altocumulus clouds are small layers or patches of cloud in the shape of rounded clumps.

Fog is a cloud that forms on the ground.

Fractus clouds are small, ragged cloud fragments that form when they break off from a larger cloud due to strong winds.

Types of Cloud | Clouds Video for kids

What Are Lenticular clouds?

Lenticular comes from the Latin word for lens-shaped. These lens-shaped clouds look a lot like UFOs or flying saucers from science fiction. Pilots usually avoid flying near lenticular clouds because of the turbulent, bouncing air around them. They usually form when moist air flows over a hill, mountain, or mountain range. They sometimes form over flat terrain.

Lenticular clouds look like UFOs

Lenticular clouds look like UFOs

© 2013 JoanCA

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