Clouds are groupings of vapour or frozen crystals in a planets atmosphere. On Earth, these clouds are made from water whereas on other planets, they could be made from a different substance such as Methane such as on Saturn.
Clouds can form at any height in a planets atmosphere. On Earth they can form at any level but always when its cold. At the heights where clouds form, the temperatures are always cold even when they form at ground level. What some people don't realise is that fog is a cloud that forms at the ground level. The only difference between fog and clouds is just the height in which they appear. Whether a cloud will drop precipitation depends on its level in the atmosphere, lower clouds will tend to drop rain than higher clouds.
Earth clouds are created when the water at the ground/sea level is heated and evaporates into the upper atmosphere. When the water reaches a certain height depending on environmental conditions at the time will group with other water to form clouds. When the pressure dips, the clouds begin to break up in the form of precipitation (rain/sleet/snow/hailstorms) and fall down to Earth. The fallen water drops will eventually go back up into the atmosphere to form new clouds. Clouds on other planets such as Venus and Jupiter are static clouds, they don't create and disappear.
Clouds play an important in protecting humans from the harmful rays that enter our atmosphere. They rebound some of the Sun's infra-red radiation. Not totally our friend, they can trap heat within the atmosphere and thus increase the temperature.
The table below details the main types of clouds that have been categorised. There are sub-types of clouds which I have decided not to detail. For example, Cumulonimbus clouds can be sub-categorised into ( Cumulonimbus Calvus, Cumulonimbus Incus and Cumulonimbus with Mammatus).
Earth is not the only planet to have clouds, all the other planets except Mercury and probably Pluto (thats if you class Pluto as still being a planet) have clouds. Mercury doesn't have an atmosphere so clouds can't form.
At one time, it was believed that Venus was as hospitable to life as Earth is. Venus had water and may even have had life on it but something catastrophic occurred and no known life exists. The clouds on Venus are highly acidic and trap the environment keeping it warm and poisonous to any life. There is a theory that there might be microbial life in the upper clouds but nothing too advanced.
Mars is our nearest hospitable neighbour, we wouldn't be able to breathe unaided on it. The planed is calm, cold but it won't boil us away like what Venus or Mercury would do. The planet has a cloud system which can be seen on N.A.S.A. through a selection of pictures.
All the gas giants have clouds in their upper atmosphere. The clouds on Saturn and Jupiter are composed of tiny ice crystals of frozen ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, and water. The outer gas planet clouds consist of methane. Tech Astronomy
Fog are a form of clouds that appear at ground level. They can appear patchy as they do in the sky. You can walk out of a cloud and look back and see behind you that area is still covered in a fog. If you look at SciJinks, you can see a photo taken from above Fog patches.
|Cloud Name||Min Height (ft)||Max Height (ft)|
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