From the ABC 7 Weather team

A Happy Cloud Weighs How Much?

April 25, 2012 - 10:17 PM
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If a cloud weighs as much as 20,000 elephants why doesn't it fall to the ground?

Ok, I know this is a trick.  Well, not really.  A fair weather cumulus cloud such as we saw yesterday . . . those "happy" clouds.... weigh about 100 thousand tons!! 

Cumulus Clouds

Even a big bull elephant weighs "only" about 5 tons or 10,000 pounds.  So what keeps all those elephants in the sky?  As you've guessed, a cloud is not quite as dense as an elephant.  An elephant, just like us, is primarily water and a cubic foot of elephant is about 60 pounds. 

Elephant.... This Is How Much A Cumulus Cloud Weighs???

But a cubic foot of cloud is mainly just air, but contains millions of microscopic droplets of water weighing only a few millionths of a pound.  The sun warms the earth and, as the day progresses such as yesterday, rising bubbles of air, even with just a little moisture, form those fluffy cumulus clouds.  The sunlight reflected or scattered off those microscopic droplets gives the clouds the white color and a bit gray on the bottoms, or bases, where the sun doesn't really shine so to speak. 

You can't really see those rising bubbles of air, but you can see large soaring birds, like hawks and vultures, slowly circling and rising in the bubbles or "thermals".   




  (A) Cumulus(1) warm surface  (2) rising thermal (3) sinking cool air

 Now imagine if an elephant could have the wingspan of one of those soaring birds . . .maybe elephants could fly.  Today, heavy clouds with the rain coming our way, but if the forecast works out, look for those 20,000 elephant versions back with us on Friday.




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