Next time you're on an airplane or just taking a walk in the park with your kids, turn it into a "teachable moment" by explaining where clouds come from and what the different kinds are called!
What is a cloud?
Clouds are everywhere: in the kitchen, the bathroom, and outside. Steam rising from a pot of boiling water or a hot bath is a cloud. When it's really cold outside and you can see your breath, you're seeing a little cloud. And fog and mist are -- you got it -- clouds.
The ones in the sky are formed when moisture in the air is cooled. The air around us soaks up moisture from rivers, lakes, and oceans. When the warm air close to the ground rises and meets cooler air above, the temperature falls and microscopic droplets of water are formed. This process is called condensation. A cloud is a collection of millions of these tiny droplets. Clouds appear as white when sunlight hits them and is reflected off the droplets. Those that are very thick with moisture do not reflect sunlight as well, and they appear as gray.
What's Latin got to do with it?
For older kids, learning to identify different cloud types using the proper terminology is like a mini Latin lesson! Here's a handy cloud lexicon:
- Nimbus is Latin for rain. When nimbo appears in a term as a prefix, or nimbus as the root, then the term refers to a rain-producing cloud.
- Alto derives from the Latin altus, meaning high, and refers to clouds that appear high in the sky.
- Cirro, or cirrus, means curl of hair in Latin. This term refers to a wispy, curly formation.
- Cumulus derives from the Latin word for heap. Cumulus clouds are piled and fluffy. (This Latin root also appears in the English words accumulate and cumulative.)
- Stratus derives from the Latin verb sternere, which means to stretch. Stratus clouds extend in flatter formations than cumulus ones.
Keep a cloud log!
Your kids might enjoy keeping a record of the types of clouds they observe on different days and noting the weather conditions associated with them. All that's needed is a notebook, a pencil, and a keen eye!
Source: Kids Discover, Weather