#FunFriday – Exploring Clouds

What are Clouds?

photo credit: Theophilos via photopin cc

Clouds are made up of tiny drops of water or ice crystals. They form when warm air picks up water vapour from the land or sea and carries it into the sky turning it into water droplets or ice crystals!

The study of clouds is called Nephology.

Let’s learn more!

There are lots of ways to describe clouds but they are usually named based on their height in the sky, their shape or the weather they can bring!


  • If a cloud name starts with “cirr-” then you know it must form very high in the sky (over 20,000 feet).
  • If a cloud name has “Alto”- in it then it is in the middle section of the sky (between 6,500 and 20,000 feet).
  • Clouds with “Strato-” in the name are found in the lowest part of the sky (below 6,500 feet).
The clouds that are really high in the sky are mainly made up of ice crystals as the air is so cold.
Clouds at ground level are called “fog”.


Did you know…all clouds are white but can appear grey or dark when seen from below? This may be due to the amount of water they contain and shadowing by clouds above them.

Clouds named according to their shape will contain one of these Latin words in their name…
  • Cumulus” – heap
  • Stratus” – layer
  • Cirrus” – curl of hair
Cumulus Clouds
photo credit: Nicolai Grut via photopin cc
Cirrus Clouds
photo credit: Gerry Dincher via photopin cc


Alrostratus Clouds
photo credit: Anita363 via photopin cc

Therefore a cloud named Altostratus would mean a cloud that forms in layers and sits between 6,500 and 20,000 feet above land.

Did you know... other planets contain clouds made up of chemicals other than water? Venus has clouds made up of sulphuric acid, chlorine and flouride. Neptune is covered by bright blue methane clouds!

The latin word “Nimbus” is used to name rain clouds!

Cumulonimbus Clouds
photo credit: izoo3y via photopin cc

Clouds called Cumulonimbus are often referred to as thunder clouds as they usually bring thunder storms!

Cumulonimbus clouds are the tallest of all the clouds.
Cumulonimbus looks a bit like a giant cauliflower in the sky!
Did you know… a sinlge cloud can hold billions of pounds of water?

Clouds are carried along by the wind and can often travel quite fast;

Thunder clouds (Cumulonimbus) usually travel about 64 kilometres per hour (kph). The highest clouds (above 20,000 feet) can reach speeds of  over 160 kph!

An experiment to try at home:


Make a cloud in a bottle!


You will need… an empty 2 Litre plastic bottle, warm water and a match.


What to do… Fill the plastic bottle one third full with warm water.  Put the cap back on and squeeze and then release the bottle.  Nothing happens. Ask an adult to light the match and put it into the bottle.  Replace the cap quickly.  Try squeezing and releasing the bottle again.  What happens this time?


So what is happening? Once the match has been added to the bottle a cloud forms when you squeeze and then release the bottle (if you squeeze again the cloud dissapears and reappears when you release).  To make a cloud you need water vapour, small particles (like the smoke) and a decrease in air pressure.