Can a cloud weigh as much as 80 elephants put together?

By: Marcus Vinicius

Learn in this article how clouds can weigh as much as a herd of elephants – and why this is important for understanding the weather!


Despite appearing light and buoyant, clouds weigh a lot! A medium-sized cloud can weigh as much as 80 elephants together. That's because clouds are made up of water droplets or ice crystals that, even though they are very small, add up to a considerable weight.
In clouds, condensed water is carried by winds to very high altitudes. When the air warms up and there are no more conditions for the cloud to remain intact, the droplets fall in the form of rain.

The types of clouds we can find depend on the altitude at which they form. See some examples below:

– Cumulonimbus: high storm cloud that produces thunderstorms and lightning;

– Cirrus: thin and narrow, do not usually produce rain;

– Stratus: low gray-blue clouds that usually appear in cloudy weather;

– Cumulus: dense clouds that usually appear in clear weather.

What is a cloud?

A cloud is a large collection of water droplets or ice crystals that float in the air. Clouds are formed when warm air rises and expands. When the air cools, water droplets condense around nuclei such as dust particles, cotton fibers and aerosols.
Clouds can be classified according to their height, shape and density. The lowest clouds are called cumulus (Cb) and are located less than 2 km from the ground. The highest clouds are called cirrus (Cs) and are located more than 5 km from the ground. The clouds that lie between these two ends are called stratus (St).

The different shapes of clouds

Clouds are formed by warm air rising. When the air gets colder, it condenses and forms water droplets or ice crystals. These water droplets or ice crystals are suspended in the air and, as they accumulate, form clouds.

There are different types of clouds, each with its own characteristics. Clouds are classified according to the height at which they are suspended in the sky: low clouds (stratus), medium clouds (cumulus) and high clouds (circus).

Low clouds are usually large and flat and are suspended at an altitude between 0 and 2 km from the ground. They are common in tropical and subtropical regions during most of the year.

The cumulus are those “little clouds” that we usually see on sunny days.
Cirrus clouds are tall, thin clouds formed by ice crystals.

In addition to these three main types, there are still sparse clouds (stratocumulus), which are low clouds with some scattered cumulus; the swarming clouds (cumulonimbus), which are very dense and dark cumulus, characteristic of days of heavy rain; and the thick, dark clouds (nimbostratus), which usually herald bad weather.

Why do clouds weigh?

Clouds are formed by water droplets or ice crystals that are suspended in the air. When these droplets or crystals come together, they form a cloud.

Water is one of the heaviest elements that exist, and when it is in a liquid state, it weighs approximately 1 gram per cubic centimeter. This means that a cloud 1 meter wide and 1 meter long and 1 meter high can weigh 1 ton!

These gigantic clouds are able to float in the air due to the force of evaporation. The water evaporates turning into steam and giving rise to clouds.

The heaviest clouds in the world

The heaviest clouds in the world are those that have the highest water density. These clouds can weigh as much as 80 elephants put together! Cloud density is measured by the number of water droplets per cubic centimeter (cm³). The more water droplets there are, the heavier the cloud.
The heaviest clouds in the world are found in monsoon areas where there is a lot of moisture in the air. When this moisture condenses, very dense clouds form. Monsoon clouds can weigh up to 1 tonne per cubic meter (t/m³). This means they have the same density as concrete!

Clouds and their relationship with rain

Rainfall is formed inside clouds, which are formed by warm air rising and cold air sinking.
Clouds form when warm air rises and cold air sinks. Clouds are full of water droplets or ice crystals. When water droplets clump together, they become heavy and fall from the cloud as rain.
The relationship between clouds and rain is that clouds are where rain forms. Without clouds, there would be no rain.

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