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The Winter 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist includes a variety of educational resources, ranging from astronomy to glaciers. Check out the other publications and classroom materials in our online store.
Photograph of cumulus clouds in the mountains of Colorado.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Lisa Gardiner

Clouds

Clouds can come in all sizes and shapes, and can form near the ground or high in the atmosphere. Clouds are groups of tiny water droplets or ice crystals in the sky and are formed by different processes. They can make different kinds of precipitation depending on the atmosphere's temperature.

Cloud types are classified by height and appearance. The shape depends on the way the air moves around the cloud. If air moves horizontally, clouds form spread-out layers. Clouds grow upward if air is moving vertically near the cloud.

At any given time, clouds cover about 50% of the Earth. We would not have rain, thunderstorms, rainbows, or snow without clouds. Clouds make up some of the atmospheric optics we can see in the sky. The atmosphere would be boring if the sky was always clear!

Did you know that Earth is not the only planet with clouds? Other planets, like Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn, have clouds too!
Last modified May 21, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store.

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