Your Cloud Questions Answered

Yolanda the palm tree facing right

Yolanda’s a palm tree, so she has a lot of time to study the clouds in the sky above her. Below are her answers to questions about clouds. 

What are clouds made of?

Clouds that are low in the atmosphere are made of liquid water droplets. 

Clouds that are high in the atmosphere are made of ice crystals because it’s cold up there.

Visit Meet the Clouds to learn which types are low and which are high in the atmosphere.

How much does a cloud weigh?

A small cumulus cloud might look light and fluffy, but it’s actually very heavy. It weighs about as much as a hundred elephants (550 tons). 

How do clouds stay in the sky? Why don’t they fall to the ground?

Each cloud is made of millions of tiny water droplets. Each droplet is so small and light that it can float in the air. If some of those droplets grow larger, they’ll get heavier and fall to the ground as raindrops.

Visit Making Raindrops with Mindy to learn how raindrops form.

How does water get into the sky?

Most water gets into the sky when heat from the Sun causes some of the water in lakes and oceans to turn into water vapor in the air.

Plants like Yolanda help water get into the atmosphere, too. They take water from the ground using their roots. They need water to live, and they also release some water from their leaves as water vapor to stay cool.

Water also gets into the air from snow and ice. Instead of melting, some frozen water changes into water vapor and goes into the atmosphere.

How long does water spend in the sky?

Water spends about eight days in the atmosphere traveling through the sky with the wind before it falls back to Earth.

How does water get out of the atmosphere?

First, when water vapor is cooled, it transforms into tiny droplets of liquid water or ice crystals that grab onto dust particles in the atmosphere. Tons of these little droplets or ice crystals make clouds. When you look at clouds from the ground, the tiny droplets and ice are too far away to see, but many of them together look like a cloud. If the droplets or ice crystals get large enough, they fall from the sky as rain or snow.