30 Facts About Cumulus Clouds

Cotton balls on azure blue seas, Cumulus clouds are the fluffy cartoon clouds that filled the drawings of our childhood. Often seen as a sign of fair weather, these clouds bathe in sunny skies and drift lazily on warm breezes. Yet, these clouds hide a water-filled secret… Find out what it is as we take a look at 30 facts about Cumulus clouds. 

Fact 1: As you might imagine, Cumulus clouds are a type of cloud: the white or grey fluffy things that float in the sky. 

Fact 2: Cumulus clouds are the clouds that we all drew as children… Their upper sections are like cauliflowers: white, fluffy, and with puffy rounded upper lobes. Their underside is often nearly completely flat.

Fact 3: The word Cumulus has a Latin origin. In Latin, it means “heap”. This was used to indicate the way in which these clouds seem to have fluffy sections that “heap” upon each other to create a cloud pile. 

Fact 4: Cumulus clouds are usually found 200-2000 meters above the local topography or ground. This is not altitude above sea level. As the clouds always form this high above ground or sea level, not just sea level. 

Fact 5: Cumulus clouds are often described as fluffy, puffy, and cotton-ball like. 

Fact 6: In the hit TV show, The Simpsons, the clouds shown at the beginning of the show’s introduction sequence, when it say’s “The Simpsons”, are Cumulus clouds. 

Cumulus clouds in The Simpsons TV show. 

Fact 7: Cumulus clouds are generally considered low-level clouds. This means they are found low in the atmosphere and within easy reach of skyscrapers and low flying vehicles such as planes and helicopters. 

Fact 8: Meteorologists, people who study the weather, give Cumulus clouds the abbreviation of Cu. 

Fact 9: Cumulus clouds can form from a number of different water types including water vapor, ice crystals, supercooled water droplets, or a combination of them all. However, the type of water the cloud forms from is dependent on the surrounding temperature. 

Fact 10: An average Cumulus cloud has a volume of about one billion cubic meters which is 1 cubic kilometer. That’s about the equivalent of 400 hundred thousand Olympic size swimming pools. 

Fact 11: Cumulus clouds can hold up to 2.5 grams of water for every cubic meter. To give you an idea of how much water that is, open your hand palm up and cup it. Then pour a little bit of water in the middle of your palm so no water runs out. This about 5 grams of water. 

Fact 12: If you take the average volume of a cumulus cloud, 1 billion cubic meters, and multiply that but the average water content of a cumulus cloud per cubic meter, 2.5 grams, you get a staggering total water weight contained within the cloud of 2,500 tonnes.

That’s 2.5 million kilograms of water! Or the equivalent of 417 African elephants worth of water for every single cloud you see in the sky! 

Fact 13: Cumulus clouds come in a small range of colors that range from completely white to light gray.  

Fact 14: Though cumulus clouds hold vast amounts of water, they very rarely produce rain. Instead, they tend to slowly evaporate off feeding moisture into larger cloud systems. 

Fact 15: By clouds type, cumulus clouds are the most common clouds on earth. 

Fact 16: If Cumulus clouds continue to absorb moisture they tend to grow in size quite rapidly. Eventually, they form massive storm clouds called Cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds can stretch 12 kilometers high and hold tens of millions of tonnes of water.

Fact 17: There are four different Cumulus clouds species that identify the different shapes of Cumulus clouds. They are:

  • Cumulus Congestus. This cumulus type can be identified by being taller than it is wide, like a column.
  • Cumulus Fractus. This can be identified by its ragged edges and how it’s broken up. These types of cumulus clouds are often seen minutes before Cumulus clouds evaporate away. 
  • Cumulus Humilis. This cloud is the opposite of Cumulus Congestus. They are wider than they are tall. Like a great big fluffy bed! 
  • Cumulus Mediocris. This type of Cumulus cloud is almost cubical in shape. Often having identical width, depth, and hight. 

Fact 18: Due to their white color, Cumulus clouds help to lower the average temperature of the sounding land by reflecting sunlight away from the Earth back into space.  

Fact 19: Cumulus clouds often form long rows of clouds called streets that can stretch for hundreds of kilometers. These so-called streets have been known to extend for over 480 kilometers. Often the streets bunch up into multiple rows running parallel to each like waves running up a beach. These multiple streets can cover vast areas of land. 

Streets of Cumulus clouds over Brittany. Notice how there are multiple streets running neer parallel to each other. Adam Cli – Own work – CC BY-SA 4.0

Fact 20: The interior of Cumulus clouds have been measure to be as warm as 25 °C, and often warmer. This heat is generated when water consensus into water droplets. This cooling process liberates latent heat from the water, which in turn increases the surrounding temperature. 

Fact 21: Cumulus clouds can have well over 1,300 droplets of water per cubic centimeter. This means there are 1.3 billion droplets of water in every cubic meter of the cloud! However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the scientific instruments that measured the number of water droplets in the cloud had a low sensitivity, so the number of very small water droplets was likely much much higher. 

Fact 22: Generally speaking, the higher up in a Cumulus cloud you go, the large the water droplets you’ll encounter. You’d think it would be the other way around with the heavier water droplets falling out of the cloud at the bottom. 

Fact 23: Cumulus clouds can have epic holes ripped in them by surrounding air currents. Given sufficient time, these holls are filled in as the cloud shape evolves. However, for reasons not entirely understood, giant pockets of air with no water droplets will continue to live on in the cloud for sometime after. 

Fact 24: Though we often associate clouds with bad weather, Cumulus clouds are the opposite. They are a reliable indicator of fair weather. 

Fact 25: Cumulus clouds are known to form on other planets in our solar system. Planets with these clouds in their atmospheres include Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. 

Fact 26: Cumulus Cataractagenitus are Cumulus clouds formed by the condensation and spray produced by waterfalls. These clouds can often be seen forming near large waterfalls such Niagra falls on the US-Canadian border. 

Fact 27: Cumulus Flammagenitus, or Pyrocumulus, are Cumulus clouds that are formed by large fires. Typically, the type of fire needed to form these types of clouds are large forest and bush fires. 

Fact 28: Cumulus Homogenitus are Cumulus clouds that are created through human activity such as heavy industry or electric power plants with cooling towers. 

Cumulus clouds forming from human action.

Fact 29: In mountainous areas, Cumulus clouds can form 6,000 meters above sea level. However, at this hight, the temperature and humidity has to be just right for them to form. 

Fact 30: If warm air is moving quickly into cold air, vast quantities of water vapor can condense very quickly. In fact, some cumulus clouds have been known to form in just a matter of minutes as a stream of “wet” warm air hits cold air forcing the water in the wet warm air to condense rapidly. 

ReferencesLink 1, Link 2

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