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Circulation of the Wind Upon Earth, Continued - 14221_301
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Cloud Formations, Continued - 14221_303
Cloud Formations The  Basics The atmosphere always contains, in greater or smaller amounts, tiny particles, such as dust from roads, desert sand, plant pollen, salt particles from oceans, and factory smoke. These fragments are hygroscopic nuclei, the term means particles that readily condense moisture. A cloud is merely a mass of hygroscopic nuclei that has soaked up moisture from the air. The heat generated by the Sun’s energy causes earthbound moisture to evaporate (turn into water vapor). Water vapor is lighter than air; thus, it rises. If the air it passes into is cold enough, the vapor condenses; that is, it turns back into moisture. The water droplets that result from this process cling to the hygroscopic nuclei. Many of these water-soaked nuclei bunched together form a cloud. Fog is the same in principle, but it’s a cloud on the ground. Changes in atmospheric conditions account for the many different shapes of clouds and for their presence at various altitudes. Formations of clouds give clues concerning the existing forces at play in the atomsphere. That’s why you must keep an accurate record of cloud genera (types). Cloud  Etage With  respect  to  clouds,  the  atmosphere  is  broken  down  into  three  layers or  etages.  In  the  middle  latitudes  or  temperate  region,  the  low  etage  is from  the  surface  to  6,500  feet;  the  mid  etage,  from  6,500  feet  to  18.500 feet;  and  the  high  etage,  from  18,500  feet  on  up  to  near  45,000  feet  (fig. 10-2).  The  limits  of  the  etages  are  generally  lower  in  the  polar  regions (mid  etage,  from  6,500  to  10,000  feet  and  high  etage  from  10,000  to 25,000  feet)  and  higher  in  the  tropics  (mid  etage  from  6,500  to  20,000 feet  and  high  etage  from  20,000  to  60,000  feet). The  low-etage  cloud  may  be  cumuliform,  such  as  the  cumulus  genera  or cumulonimbus  (identified  by  their  size  and  extent  of  development); stratiform,  such  as  the  stratus;  or  have  mixed  characteristics,  such  as  the stratocumulus.  The  mid-etage  cloud  genera  are  mostly  identified  with the  prefix  alto.  The  mid  etage  contains  the  cumuliform  clouds,  such  as altocumulus,  and  the  stratiform  clouds,  such  as  altostratus  and nimbostratus.  The  high-etage  cloud  genera  contain  the  prefix  cirro. Cumuliform  clouds  in  this  etage  are  called  cirrocumulus,  while stratiform  clouds  are  called  cirrostratus.  Another  form  of  cloud  found only  in  the  high  etage  is  the  cirriform  clouds  that  are  the  normally  thin, wispy  or  hairlike  ice-crystal  clouds  that  can  be  defined  as  neither cumuliform  nor  stratiform,  but  are  simply  called  cirrus  clouds. Take a moment to study figure 10-2, which shows many of the cloud genera and  their  associated  heights  above  ground. 10-6

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