Types of Clouds for Kids

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Clouds are made up of very light water droplets or ice crystals. These particles can float in the air. When warm air rises, swells and cools, it forms clouds. Many water droplets formed together scatter reflect sunlight and you see a white could, but with a dark or gray cloud, the sunlight is scattered in all directions instead of reflected. The different types of clouds are cumulus, cirrus, stratus and nimbus.

Four types of clouds float across the sky.
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Cirrus clouds are the thin, wispy clouds seen high in the sky. They look as if someone took a cloud, stretched it, pulling pieces off, like a cotton ball when it is pulled apart. They are thin because they are made of ice crystals instead of water droplets. A blue sky and a few cirrus clouds high in the sky, usually means it is going to be a nice day.

Cirrus clouds are thin and high in the sky.
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Cumulus clouds are the puffy clouds that are usually scattered throughout the sky. In Latin, the word cumulus means pile. Just like when we say “accumulate,” it means things pile up. This type of cloud is formed when warm air rises carrying water vapor with it by evaporation. Cumulus clouds can be white or gray. White fluffy clouds means no rain, but when they form into dark or gray clouds, it is going to rain.

Cumulus clouds are puffy.
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Stratus clouds look like a huge thick blanket covering the sky. These clouds are a sure sign of rain if it is warm and snow if it is cold. If stratus clouds are near the ground, they form fog. These clouds form when the weather has been cold and warmer moist air blows in. The amount of moisture in the air and the difference between warm and cold air determine how thick the cloud or fog is.

Stratus clouds look like a thick blanket covering the sky.
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The word nimbus means a cloud that already has rain or snow falling from it. These clouds are dark and seen during a thunderstorm along with thunder and lightning. They can be a combination of two clouds, like a cumulonimbus, which means a puffy black cloud with rain falling out or it, or a stratonimbus, which is a dark blanket with rain falling out of it.

Nimbus clouds are thunderstorm clouds.
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