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Cirrus Clouds Essay

3564 words - 15 pages

Cirrus clouds (cloud classification symbol: Ci) are atmospheric clouds generally characterized by thin, wispy strands, giving them their name from the Latin word "cirrus" meaning a ringlet or curling lock of hair.[1][2] The strands of cloud sometimes appear in tufts of a distinctive form referred to by the common name ofmares' tails.[3]
Cirrus clouds generally appear white or light grey in colour. They form when water vapor undergoes deposition at altitudes above 5,000 m (16,500 ft) in temperate regions and above 6,100 m (20,000 ft) in tropical regions. They also form from the outflow of tropical cyclones or the anvils of cumulonimbus clouds. Since these cirrus clouds arrive in advance of ...view middle of the document...

|Contents |
| [hide] |
|1 Description |
|2 Formation |
|2.1 Cyclones |
|2.2 Contrails |
|3 Use in forecasting |
|4 Effects on climate |
|5 Optical phenomena |
|6 Relation to other clouds |
|6.1 Subtypes |
|6.1.1 Cirrocumulus |
|6.1.2 Cirrostratus |
|7 Extraterrestrial |
|8 See also |
|9 Sources |
|10 External links |

[edit]Description

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Cirrus clouds merging to cirrocumulus clouds
Cirrus clouds range in thickness from 100 m (330 ft) to 8,000 m (26,000 ft), with an average thickness of 1,500 m (4,900 ft). There are, on average, 30 ice crystals per liter (96 ice crystals per gallon), but this ranges from one ice crystal per 10,000 liters (3.7 ice crystals per 10,000 gallons) to 10,000 ice crystals per liter (37,000 ice crystals per gallon), a difference of eight orders of magnitude. The length of each of these ice crystals is usually 0.25 millimeters long,[5] but they range from as short as 0.01 millimeters or as long as several millimeters.[6] The ice crystals in contrails are much smaller than those in naturally-occurring cirrus clouds, as they are around 0.001 millimeters to 0.1 millimeters in length.[7]Cirrus clouds can vary in temperature from −20 °C (−4 °F) to −30 °C (−22 °F).[6]

The ice crystals in the cirrus clouds have different shapes in addition to different sizes. Some shapes include solid columns, hollow columns, plates, rosettes, and conglomerations of the various other types. The shape of the ice crystals is determined by the air temperature, atmospheric pressure, and ice supersaturation. Cirrus clouds in temperate regions typically have the shapes segregated by type: the columns and plates tend to be at the top of the cloud, whereas the rosettes and conglomerations tend to be near the base.[6] In the northern Arctic region, cirrus clouds tend to be composed of only the columns, plates, and conglomerations, and these crystals tend to be at least four times larger than the minimum size. In Antarctica, cirrus clouds are usually composed of only the columns, and these columns are much longer than normal.[6]

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[pic]
Fall streaks in a cirrus cloud
Scientists have studied the characteristics of cirrus clouds using several different methods. One,Light Detection and...

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