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When the Sum warms the Earth, warm air rises into the atmosphere. As it rises, it expands and cools. Water vapor condenses out of the cool air to form a cloud.
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Image Courtesy of CMMAP

Cloud Formation from Heating of the Earth's Surface

Some clouds form because of the heating of the Earth's surface. First, the Sun heats the ground, which then heats the air. As this warm air rises in the atmosphere, it expands and cools.

The cooling air can't hold as much water vapor as it was able to hold when it was warm. This extra water vapor begins to condense out of the air parcel in the form of liquid water droplets. As the air parcel rises higher and higher, it continues to expand and get cooler, and more moisture condenses out of it.

Eventually, enough moisture will condense out of the air parcel to form a cloud! The types of clouds that form from the process of surface heating are cumulonimbus (and mammatus clouds), cumulus, and stratocumulus.

When the Earth's surface cools instead or warms, fog and stratus clouds can develop.

Last modified May 21, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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