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Cumulus Clouds - Windows to the Universe

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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.
This is a photograph of cumulus clouds.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Carlye Calvin

Cumulus

Cumulus clouds belong to the Clouds with Vertical Growth group. They are puffy white or light gray clouds that look like floating cotton balls. Cumulus clouds have sharp outlines and a flat base. Cumulus clouds generally have a base height of 1000m and a width of 1km.

Cumulus clouds can be associated with good or bad weather. Cumulus humilis clouds are associated with fair weather. Cumulus congestus clouds are usually associated with bad weather. Their tops look like cauliflower heads and mean that light to heavy showers can occur.

Here's a tip on how to know if you see a cumulus cloud in the sky. Cumulus cloud cells (the individual puffs of clouds) are about the size of your fist or larger when you hold up your hand at arm's length to look at the cloud.


Last modified May 21, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF