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Geosciences LibreTexts

5.1: Looking at the Whole Cloud

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  • Putting It All Together

    We can put all of the processes from this lesson together to look at the lifecycle of a cloud:

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    The lifecycle of a cloud. This schematic contains essentially all the processes that we have talked about in this lesson. Credit: W. Brune

    The following is a description of convection’s stages of development:

    • Local perturbation in atmospheric density fields, sometimes driven by uneven surface heating or moisture evaporation, starts relative vertical motion
    • Stage 1: “Developing Stage” (also called Cumulus Stage)
      • Updraft dominates center of cloud, cloud drops form and grow
      • Release of latent heat provides the energy for vertical motion and growth
    • Stage 2: “Mature Stage”
      • Downdrafts form in addition to updrafts, causing gust fronts
      • Cloud reaches height so that freezing occurs and precipitation develops
      • Evaporation of precipitation drives downdrafts
    • Stage 3: “Dissipating Stage”
      • Downdrafts only
      • Water mass is removed by sedimentation/evaporation

    The video below (2 min.) includes some great time-lapse video of clouds forming and disappearing. Check it out:

    Quiz 5-4: How precipitation forms.

    1. You can take Practice Quiz 5-4 as many times as you like.
    2. When you feel you are ready, take Quiz 5-4. You will be allowed to take this quiz only once. Good luck!
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