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Why do clouds not fall from the sky?

Question by Guest | 12/09/2013 at 13:28

Thank you for answering my question about the weight of clouds. Although I previously could not imagine that clouds can be so weighty, it sounds logical when realizing the facts.

However, now I have another question: When clouds are so heavy - much heavier than an airplane - how can clouds hold at the sky? Why are clouds not falling from the sky with their weight?

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The answer to this question again lies in the tiny water droplets forming a cloud. We can not consider the weight of the entire cloud at this point - this weight in common would undoubtedly fall down immediately as whole. Instead, we have to look at the individual water doublets. Such a water droplet usually has a diameter of only 10 micrometers.

In fact, also this tiny water droplet is subject to the gravity and thereby permanently has the desire to move closer to earth. But, due to the small size, this happens very very slowly. At the same time the particle is quickly driven upward by warm air rising up, so that the water droplets in the cloud are constantly in motion and can hold in the sky this way.

More specifically, if the airflow upwards outweighs, the cloud stays in the sky, if the gravity outweighs, the water comes down in the form of rain or snow. The greater the water droplets become (dark rain clouds are made of larger drops), the more likely the gravity wins this game.
12/09/2013 at 15:18

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