Heavy Cloud Cover

When you look up at fluffy clouds suspended in the sky you naturally think they don’t weigh much.  But taken as a whole, there is a surprising amount of weight hanging up there.


Clouds are of course suspended water droplets, or ice droplets depending on its elevation.  A droplet is formed when water vapor condenses on some microscopic particle of dust, and only averages around 1/500 of an inch in diameter, small enough to float on air.  But clouds tend to be big and all those droplets add up.


A meteorologist named Peggy LeMone figured out the weight of a typical cumulus cloud, which are those puffy white clouds that form on sunny days and look like popcorn or cauliflower.  Since a ton is hard to visualize, LeMone compared a cloud’s weight to something more meaningful: elephants.  A typical cumulus cloud weighs around 100 elephants, who weigh in at around 6 tons.   Considering how many cumulus clouds you see on an average day, that’s a lot of elephants floating around.


The numbers are even more impressive for a storm cloud, the cumulonimbus type with a tall anvil shaped top and flat, dark bottom.  Those can weigh in at 200,000 elephants.  The largest storm cloud formation is a hurricane, which can pack a wallop of 40 million elephants, more than all the elephants on the planet.  Now that’s a pack of pachyderms.



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