Archives For towering cumulus clouds


Today, a classic Arctic airmass brought almost every type of cumulus cloud over Reigate. Arctic air starts off very cold somewhere near the North Pole but quickly moves south over progressively warmer oceans and land surfaces. This makes it “unstable”, which means any heating of the ground by the sun will allow relatively warm bubbles of air to rise rapidly from the surface as thermals. Thermals will continue to rise so long as the air around them is COLDER than they are, which is pretty much forever in an Arctic air mass! When moisture in the thermals condenses, towering cumulus clouds form and showers become likely. Today these showers fell as snow despite the air temperature being +4.5°C! The dry Arctic airmass with a low relative humidity (56%) coupled with the rapid lapse rate (drop in temp with height) allowed snow forming at high altitude not to melt or sublime before it hit the surface. Cumulus don’t usually live long after sunset … they decay and die quickly once their supply of thermals is cut off.  Like many things of beauty, cumulus clouds are short lived so make the most of them when you see them next time!  The photos above show the wonderful cumulus clouds which formed over Reigate today, numbered in order of appearance: how many did you spot?  Tomorrow might be similar, so keep an eye out again…the best view is often up!