Summer Cloud Science

By contributing writer Colleen

Do you live in a place where hot and humid air makes the weather unstable in July and August? It might be the perfect time to study different types of clouds with your kids.

Read a book like The Cloud Book by Tomie DePaola, and then head outside to observe clouds and talk about the different types you see and what types of weather they foretell.

When hot and humid air makes the weather unstable in July and August, it's the perfect time to study different types of clouds with your kids.

photo credit: Ajith U via photopin cc

What Are Clouds?

Clouds are a collection of very tiny water droplets or ice crystals that float in the air together. They are able to float because they are so small and light. Near the ground, moisture in air is in the form of water vapor, and clouds are formed when that warm air rises, expands, and then cools. The cooler air can’t hold as much vapor, so the moisture condenses around dust particles in the atmosphere, then come together.

Types Of Clouds

There are different types of clouds. Each has a different altitude and appearance.

Cirrus Clouds

These are the most common high altitude (above 18,000 feet) clouds. They are thin, wispy, and made of ice. They are usually white, and kids can use them to predict fair to pleasant weather.

Cirrostratus Clouds

These are sheet-like, cover the sky, and usually appear 12-24 hours before rain. While they cover the sky, the sun can still be seen through them.

Cirrocumulus Clouds

These appear as small puffs in a long row covering the sky — almost like the scales of a fish. They’re usually seen in the winter and indicate fair, but very cold, weather.

Altostratus Clouds

These mid-level (6,500-18,000 feet) clouds are gray or blue-gray, and are made up of ice crystals and water droplets. They fill the whole sky and usually form just ahead of continuous rain or snow.

Altocumulus Clouds

These are gray puffy masses made up of water droplets. They form in groups, and when you see them in the mornings in the summertime, prepare for thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening.

Stratus Clouds

These cover the sky like fog that doesn’t reach the ground, are gray, and produce a light drizzle or mist.

Stratocumulus Clouds

These clouds are low, puffy, and gray. They form in rows with blue sky showing through, and rarely produce rain.

Nimbostratus Clouds

These are wet looking and dark gray. They form in a layer that produces steady falling rain.

Cumulus Clouds

White and puffy, these look like cotton candy and indicate fair weather. These clouds can eventually tower upwards to form cumulonimbus clouds.

Cumulonimbus Clouds

These are thunderstorm clouds. High winds flatten the top of them. These clouds produce heavy rain, hail, thunder, lightning, and can even develop into tornadoes.

When hot and humid air makes the weather unstable in July and August, it's the perfect time to study different types of clouds with your kids.

photo credit: hollyladd via photopin cc

How Clouds Make Rain

When water droplets and ice crystals continue to collect in a cloud, they get heavier and heavier. They will eventually become too heavy to float on the air. Water droplets will fall to the earth as rain.

You can easily show your kids how clouds make rain with this science experiment that only requires a few simple materials.

You can easily show this to your kids with a few simple materials. You’ll need shaving cream (use the foam kind, not gel), a jar, water, and food coloring.

  1. Fill the jar almost to the top with water.
  2. Cover the top with a “cloud” of shaving cream.
  3. Let your child drop food coloring into the cloud until the color starts “raining” into the water below. Explain that this is how rain works too. The water collects in the cloud until there is too much, and then it leaks through, forming rain.

If you’re anything like my kids and my husband, this is a perfect way to sneak a little science in as you explore the skies in the summer.

  • Watch the show as lightning lights up the sky during your next storm.
  • Chat with your kids throughout the day as you watch the clouds morph and change, and eventually tower.
  • Then stand back and watch the skies erupt.
  • Point out the cotton candy cumulus clouds on your next walk, and comment on the fairness of the day.

Cloud science is easy and fun, and perfect for a bit of summer learning.

The Everything Weather Book for Kids

More cloud and weather related books for kids:

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Be sure to check out dozens of homeschool projects, experiments, and hands-on fun for all ages!

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About Colleen

Colleen is a former teacher of gifted children who prayed for nice, average kids. Since God has a sense of humor, she now stays at home to homeschool her highly gifted kids, trying desperately to stay one step ahead of them while writing about their adventures {and messes} at Raising Lifelong Learners.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Comments

  1. Hi Colleen,
    Thankyou for your fun cloud activities and information. I am a Kindergarten teacher in Sydney, Australia and I wanted to let you know that we did your cloud experiment yesterday. We are learning about weather and we had lots of fun making shaving cream clouds. You can read about it on my class blog here https://wpskc.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/we-are-rainmakers/ . I hope you don’t mind that I have quoted your experiment on my blog. Thanks very much

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