Dear 100 Hour Board,
What determines how dark or light the clouds are? Are dark clouds more/less likely to produce rain and/or lightning? Does cloud color have anything to do with the strength of the wind?
– Bored To Tears
Ok. First a little bit of information about regular clouds. Clouds form when warm air containing water vapor is lighter than the air around it and starts to rise. As it gets higher, the air cools and the water vapor condenses out of the air in the form of tiny particles of water called “micro-droplets.” If the micro-droplets are dense, sunlight can’t penetrate the cloud very far so the sunlight is reflected out and the cloud looks white. (If you think that’s interesting, just wait…)
Now your question was about rain clouds. When clouds mature to produce rain, the space between the micro-droplets becomes bigger and bigger and light is able to penetrate a lot father into the cloud. So that’s why we’re able to see the white through black range in cloud color. And to answer your next question, yes, darker clouds tend to produce more rain since they’re denser.
I’m sure all this information has made you curious about other cloud colors. Frankly, I don’t blame you.
Yellow: Color is due to presence of smoke. Rarely occur but when they do, it’s generally during forest fire season (late spring through early fall).
Red, Orange, & Pink: Almost always occur at sunrise or sunset when sunlight is reflected by the clouds and scattered by the atmosphere.
Green: Appears when sunlight is scattered by ice. Generally a clear indication that heavy rain, hail, strong winds, and possibly even tornados are on their way.
Bluish-gray: Occurs naturally as a result of light scattering in the cloud.
So, in summary, cloud color doesn’t really have anything to do with the strength of the wind but with the light that can be reflected from the cloud.
See, now wasn’t that interesting?