Sarah’s Science Classroom: Clouds!

Join Sarah Spivey for a science lesson and at-home experiment about clouds

In the video above, KSAT Meteorologist Sarah Spivey takes you into her “classroom” to learn about how clouds form and ways to recognize different types of clouds. Plus, Sarah shows you how to make a “cloud” at home!

Cloud Formation

  • The air all around us contains water vapor -- water in the form of gas. Water vapor in the air can be viewed as the building blocks of clouds
  • How does the air have water in it? Well, it all has to do with the sun. The sun heats up liquid water from oceans, lakes, and even puddles! That allows the water to turn from a liquid into gas -- a process called evaporation.
  • Not only is water vapor present in our atmosphere, but so are tiny particles such as dust, smoke particles, and sea salt. These are called cloud condensation nuclei and are important to turn the water vapor back into a liquid.
  • Water vapor is attracted to cloud condensation nuclei, and turns back into a liquid. This process is called condensation, and creates a teeny, tiny cloud water droplet.
  • Cloud droplets are so small that they’re invisible by themselves. However, we can see lots and lots of cloud droplets together as a group, and that’s what we call a cloud!

Make A Cloud At Home

Believe it or not, you can make a very small “cloud” right inside your home. Here are the materials you’ll need:

  • A large plastic bottle
  • Water
  • A match (parental supervision required while using matches)

And here’s how to make a “cloud” at home

  • Fill a large, clean plastic bottle at least halfway with water
  • Close the bottle and tip it over to fill the air inside the bottle with water vapor
  • Open the bottle, light a match, and immediately drop it into the bottle -- the match should go out immediately
  • Close the bottle pretty quickly
  • Squeeze the sides of the bottle to increase the pressure inside the bottle
  • When you release, you should notice a bit of fogginess in the bottle
  • Continue to squeeze and release the sides of the bottle, and watch as the fogginess increases. That’s the water vapor condensing onto the smoke particles, making a “cloud”!

Types of Clouds

There are many different types of clouds. For the sake of time, Sarah goes over four:

  • Cumulus: puffy clouds that are typically low to the ground. If you’ve ever tried to make shapes of the clouds in the sky, you’ve probably been looking at cumulus clouds.
  • Stratus: a layer of clouds in the sky. This makes the sky look gray. Sometimes stratus clouds produce rain or even snow.
  • Cirrus: wispy clouds high up in the atmosphere that are made completely of ice crystals. Cirrus clouds make for beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
  • Cumulonimbus: these are thunderstorm clouds that grow very tall and can sometimes produce severe weather.
  • The National Weather Service has made an interactive chart for you or your students to click through and discover the many different types of clouds.

More Science Lessons

If you or your kids would like to continue to learn with Sarah, check out her lessons on the phases of the moon, thunderstorms, and the seasons. You can also test your weather knowledge with a fun and interesting weather trivia quiz!

Find more content like this, including at-home experiments from Meteorologist Kaiti Blake, in our KSAT Kids section.

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