March 6, 2014

March Is A Great Month For Cloud Tracking

By Mary Kay Carson

What are these clouds predicting? (credit: Tom Uhlman)
An old proverb promises that, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." Early March can definitely be snowy and winter-like, while milder conditions can accompany spring's official arrival later in the month. March weather is a bit of everything, including great cloud watching opportunities!

How's the weather where you are—is it cloudy? What kind of clouds, exactly? Most of us understand what clouds are. These puffy floating clusters of tiny water droplets or ice crystals form from rising, cooling, condensing water vapor in the air. But as my book Inside Weather discusses, not all clouds are alike. And identifying the types of clouds out there is an important part of weather forecasting. Clouds move with the wind and change shape and color with changing temperature, air pressure, and the landscape below. Clouds look different because they are formed by different kinds of winds and mixes of ice and water. Clouds are affected by weather, create weather, and can give us an idea of what weather is on the way. 
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Even the names of clouds are full of information. Cirrus clouds are wispy and feathery. Stratus clouds are layered and flat. Cumulus are lumpy and fluffy. Longer cloud names begin with a prefix that often describes altitude. Cirro- is for high clouds, while alto- means mid-level. Adding nimbo to the beginning or end of a cloud name tells you it’s making precipitation. 

Cloud watching is a terrific way to connect the sometimes seemingly invisible forces of the atmosphere to something easily observable. Just look up! Clouds are overhead or just out the window. Tracking clouds over time takes it to the next level of science observation and recording. Here's a simple activity to identify clouds and track them over time, using the information gathered to make predictions about weather on the way. Here's hoping your forecast is a good one. Enjoy! 

ACTIVITY: Track Cloudy Weather 

1. Make a chart with these five headings:


2. Fill in the chart every morning for a week. Use the "Column of Clouds" poster below to identify the clouds and make predictions. 

3. How accurate were your forecasts?
(Copyright © 2010 Sterling Publishing)


  1. where does this website get its information

    1. i wanna know tht to

    2. Great question! The information that appears above is from the book, INSIDE WEATHER, which I wrote. The book was thoroughly fact-checked by the publisher, too! Here's the bibliography if you'd like some references:
      Williams, Jack. The Weather Book: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the US’s Weather. New York: Vintage, 1997.
      National Weather Service. JetStream—Online Weather School.
      U.S. Department of Energy. Renewable Energy.
      Online Meteorology Guide. WW2010: University of Illinois Web Site.

  2. Thanks for asking. Usually, our information comes from our research for our books.