Focus on… clouds
3 October 2007Add to My Folder
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The role of clouds in the water cycle
Water – be it in the form of rain, hail, sleet or snow – cannot fall to the Earth without clouds. Clouds are made up of millions of water droplets. Sometimes, high up where the air temperature is below freezing point, the water droplets become ice crystals.
There are around ten main shapes of cloud. An Englishman called Luke Howard (1772-1864) first classified them according to their height and shape. Clouds were given Latin names. Cumulus, for example, means ‘heap’, stratus means ‘layer’ and cirrus means ‘curl’. High-level clouds, (those above 5000 metres) start with the prefix cirro and mid-level clouds (those between 2000 and 5000 metres) begin with alto. Therefore, altostratus clouds are mid-level and layered.
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