Cloudy With a Chance of Clouds

Contributor: Lindsey Congalosi. Lesson ID: 13176

Do you ever look up at the sky and wonder what it would be like to live amongst the clouds? Find out here! Spoiler alert: it's actually pretty horrifying.


Earth Science, Physical Science

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What do you see when you picture the word cloudy?

  • A miserable day without sunshine?
  • Some cloudy water that does not look safe to drink?
  • Something that's confusing, not easy to understand?
  • Or maybe some cloudy, teary eyes?

These are all bad things! Why do clouds and cloudy things get such a bad rap? Even Elmo, who supposedly loves everyone, wants to sweep the clouds away.

Read on to learn about our puffy liquid friends and why they should be adored rather than vilified.

Now, let's get your head in the clouds and get started.

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Great! Now you can make your very own clouds with these recipe ingredients:

  1. water (liquid)
  2. little specks of dust, ice, or sea salt
  3. cooling air

cloud cookies

A cloud is formed when liquid water from Earth evaporates, turning into invisible water vapor in the air.

water vapor

As the water vapor rises, the air cools.

For more information on why the air cools, check out our lesson under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

When water vapor cools, it condenses, turning back into liquid water.

water drops

So then it falls back down as rain, right? Not exactly.

The liquid water droplets are each attached to one of those tiny solid pieces (dust, ice, etc.). Water vapor needs a solid surface in order to condense, so these little specks provide that solid center. We call these little specks of solid material condensation nuclei.

Fun Fact: Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCNs) are also called Cloud Seeds.

The cloud droplets are able to stay in the air because they are spread so far apart from each other. This lowers the cloud's density, making it less dense than the air around it, causing the cloud to float.

To learn more about this, watch Why Do Clouds Stay Up? from It's Okay To Be Smart:

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If the water droplets in the cloud become too heavy, they fall from the sky as precipitation. To see this process in action, watch How clouds form from University of Illinois Extension:

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  • What would it be like to travel through a cloud?
  • Do you imagine yourself hopping happily from bouncy poof to bouncy poof?

cloud hopping

Think again.

On July 26, 1959, Lieutenant Colonel William Rankin found himself in a failing airplane, high in the air. Having no other choice, he parachuted from his plane and directly into a tall cumulonimbus cloud. Forty minutes, and dozens of horrific injuries later, he landed in a tree, battered but alive.

Watch the video below and read The Survival Story Of The Only Known Person To Parachute Through A Thunderstorm by Daven Hiskey for Business Insider to learn more about this fascinating tale. Be forewarned - it's gross.

William Rankin, The Man Who Rode The Thunder from AVweb:

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Let's move on to the Got It? section to learn some more about your new cloud friends.

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