GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Clouds are incredibly beautiful and come in all shapes and sizes. But while they can look very different, they all need the same basic ingredients to form.
Clouds are made of water droplets. The size and shape of a cloud changes depending on the wind, the water available and the source of lift causing them to form.
Thunderstorm clouds are huge and lumpy because they are formed by the sun heating the ground or a weather front shoving them high into the sky. Stratus clouds, on the other hand, are long and flat due to the more stable conditions they are formed in.
Still, no matter the cloud, the primary ingredients are water vapor, a cloud condensation nuclei and a temperature drop.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLOUD
You can create your own cloud at home by combining some of the same ingredients that are found in nature when a cloud is created. The steps below are courtesy of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
You will need the following items:
- A clear container with very warm water.
- A match
- A stirring stick
- A metal or plastic container
Start by filling your clear container with two inches of warm water. Then get your metal tray ready by filling it with ice and setting it to the side.
While the water is still very warm, and with the help of an adult, light the match and throw it into the water in the clear container. Quickly set the metal tray on top of your clear container so that you are trapping the smoke inside.
Watch very carefully near the top of the container. You will begin to notice a change. A wispy cloud has formed!
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
A cloud will form in the container because of a combination of ingredients. The water in the bottom of your container is warm enough that it will begin to evaporate and fill the container with invisible water vapor.
The match adds tiny cloud condensation nuclei, which will allow water to condense when cold.
The ice at the top of the container makes the air cold enough to make the invisible water vapor cling onto a tiny particle of smoke and condense into a cloud droplet.
Feel free to lift the lid on the container to see the cloud better.