Cumulus clouds are puffy clouds that sometimes look like a piece of floating cotton. Cumulus clouds produce little or no precipitation but they can grow into the precipitation bearing cumulonimbus clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds are characterized by a flat and anvil-like top caused by the wind shear or inversion near the tropopause. They do not get very tall indicators of fair weather. If they do not grow tall they can turn into thunderstorms, the bottom of cumulus clouds are fairly close to the ground. The base of each cloud is flat and the top has rounded towers. When the top of the cumulus clouds looks like the head of a cauliflower, it is called cumulus congestus or towering cumulus.
Cumulus cloud formation:
Cumulonimbus clouds always develop from cumulus clouds through extreme convection.
- In the beginning, a small fragment of clouds starts to appear on the sky on which the rising air gets condensed and forms a small cloud called cumulus humilis.
- It then quickly develops into much bigger one, if updraft exists, its called cumulus mediocris.
- This stage only occurs when the thermal energy is very high developing cloud will have an exponential growth as the height of their tops usually reaches above 6-8 km. this cloud usually breaks the inversion layers and grow vertically and is called cumulus congetus.
Cumulus clouds facts:
- The cumulonimbus cloud can have a flattened top – which is caused by high winds. This leaves the cloud looking like an anvil. The storm is usually heading in the direction that than anvil points to.
- Cumulonimbus cloud forms at heights less than 20,000 feet, but can extend upwards much further.
- The top of a cumulonimbus cloud can reach 39,000 feet or sometimes higher into the atmosphere.
- In the lower level of the cumulonimbus cloud, it is mostly made up of water droplets. Higher up in the cloud the temperature is below zero degrees Celsius, and ice crystals are the dominating form.
- If a cumulonimbus cloud develops into a supercell, it can last several hours or longer. This type of storm often results in lightning, hail, strong and damaging wind, and tornadoes.
- Often the rain produced by a cumulonimbus cloud only lasts for 20 minutes or less, but the rainfall itself is often very heavy. It can also cause flash flooding.
- Cumulonimbus clouds sometimes have bubble-like protrusions on their underside which are called mammatus or mammas.
- Some cumulonimbus clouds have a tuba, which is a column that hangs from the cloud base. This can become a tornado or funnel cloud and can drop to as low as 20 feet above the ground.
- When viewed from the ground cumulonimbus clouds look dark and ominous. The light above is scattered by the water and ice droplets and makes it look very dark.
- Sometimes the rain can evaporate before it hits the ground. This is referred to as virga.
- Cumulonimbus clouds are the largest type of cloud, and it can extend through all three regions of clouds.
- A cumulonimbus calvus cloud has a puffy top. In the right conditions, the cumulonimbus calvus can become a cumulonimbus capillatus cloud.