Breakdown: Have you ever thought about how much a cloud weighs? Why the answer may surprise you.

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 12:44 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - They may look all light and fluffy, but the reality is that clouds are actually pretty heavy.

Clouds are made up of a physical substance: water. And water is quite heavy.

Scientists have calculated that the average cumulus cloud - which is that nice, white fluffy kind you see on a sunny day - weighs an incredible 1.1 million pounds!

How do you work that out? Its mass and weight are calculated from its volume and density. Volume is the cloud’s three-dimensional size. Density is the mass of a cloud per unit of volume. To find the mass or weight of a cloud, the two values are combined: Density = mass / volume

So, if you’re solving for mass, the equation would be Mass = density x volume

Although different types of clouds have different density values, one estimate of a cumulus cloud density is about 0.5 gram per cubic meter. A 1 cubic kilometer (km3) cloud contains 1 billion cubic meters.

Doing the math: 1,000,000,000 x 0.5 = 500,000,000 grams of water droplets in our cloud.

That is about 500,000 kilograms or 1.1 million pounds (about 551 tons).

But that “heavy” cloud is floating over your head because the air below it is even heavier— the lesser density of the cloud allows it to float on the dryer and more-dense air (similiar concept to oil and water)

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