Where do clouds go if it doesn’t rain? You may often ask this question based on the perpetual movement, arrangement, and disappearance of clouds.
To get an idea, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the scientific principles that govern the formation and behavior of clouds throughout their lifecycle.
And, you must know about different atmospheric factors at play. So, where do clouds go when it doesn’t rain?”
Clouds do not go anywhere but are dispersed due to wind or turn into invisible water vapor when it does not rain.
More About Cloud Formation Process
How much water vapor the air can hold depends on the air pressure and the temperature.
The higher they are, the more vapor a cloud can hang onto, until it reaches saturation.
From then the water vapor forms clouds which are made up of water droplets and ice formed around particles of dust.
There are two main processes taking place in clouds:
- Condensation, as the vapor cools and becomes liquid
- Deposition, a solid ice crystal changes straight into vapor
When water vapor gets too heavy for the air to support, they precipitate out and fall to the ground as rain or snow.
Where Do Clouds Go If It Doesn’t Rain?
Clouds do not guarantee rain even when the sky is overcast, and the clouds simply turn into invisible water vapor when it does not rain.
Rain can only happen if the droplets gather enough water to develop into heavier drops as evaporation continues adding more moisture to the saturated air.
Here are some possible explanations for what happens to clouds when it does not rain:
Fact: For precipitation, vapor must be heavy enough to overcome gravity and make it down to the surface.
Clouds Move Due to Wind Patterns
Because of constant fluctuations in temperatures and pressures clouds are in constant movement, and this can keep them from turning into precipitation all the time.
They are strongly influenced by the winds they encounter and the turbulence created by rising and falling currents of air. It gives them their distinctive characteristics.
Clouds form where weather fronts meet around low pressure which forces the air upwards.
It can be pushed up for many miles where the clouds are blown by the faster winds in the higher atmosphere.
They are carried along with the front as cold air falling displaces the rising warm air and moves the front forward.
An Important Consideration
Traveling with the wind this way clouds can cover huge distances, often crossing oceans blown by the jet stream.
Fact: Although clouds can be seen developing over one area, carried by global wind patterns they can end up dropping their precipitation hundreds of miles away.
The Role of Evaporation and Sublimation Processes
Evaporation is when a liquid turns into a gas, for example water changing into water vapor, while sublimation is when a solid turns into a gas, like dry ice.
In cloud formation sublimation occurs when the solids ice and snow vaporize without passing through a liquid state.
Both evaporation and sublimation are key processes in the water cycle.
How Do Evaporation and Sublimation Affect Rain?
The oceans, seas, lakes and rivers are the clouds’ main sources of water vapor.
Evaporation allows H20 to move in a cycle between the hydrosphere and atmosphere absorbing heat energy.
This eventually reduces the temperature of the water surface layers slowing or halting the process.
Sublimination, like evaporation, adds moisture to the atmosphere but by using snow and ice.
It occurs in very specific conditions such as those found high up on the east face of Mt. Everest.
This is where the humidity is low and the winds dry but there is strong sunlight. And it can interfere with clouds’ potential to rain.
Temperature and Humidity Causing Cloud Dispersion
In cloud formation, temperature and humidly are closely related so that the warmer an air mass is, the more vapor it can hold.
It takes longer to reach saturation and start forming clouds and so for a cloud to disperse, there has to be more evaporation than condensation.
When temperatures fall, the air finds it harder to hold onto the vapor which condenses out of the air into a cloud of ice and water droplets.
Clouds disperse in three ways:
- The temperatures rise and the air takes back the vapor
- The cloud mixes with drier air
- The sinking cooler air is no longer warmed and cannot rise again
This can happen in daily cycles as temperature and humidity are impacted by the angle of sunlight and the surface heat available.
Fact: The air is in constant motion with evaporation and condensation occurring simultaneously and so water droplets are constantly forming and dissipating.
Factors That Influence Where Do Clouds Go It Doesn’t Rain
As well as temperature and humidity there are other factors that influence whether or not a cloud produces rain.
These include the topography, where air masses are blocked by barriers such as mountains, and fronts, with
- Warm air rising over colder air
- Convergence as air flows meet
- The turbulence that builds the wind’s speed
Influence of Temperature on Cloud Formation
When air is cooled its humidity increases.
At 100%, the air can hold no more vapor and it condenses into the water droplets and ice crystals that form a cloud.
Essentially, all clouds are a mixture of water and ice suspended in the atmosphere and are very sensitive to changes in temperature.
Cloud temperatures are often at or below freezing point, so much of the rain that falls begins its journey to earth as ice crystals.
An Important Consideration
The water itself is super-cooled to below 32F.
Although it evaporated and carried latent heat with it into the atmosphere, some of the heat is lost as it meets the cold layers of the atmosphere.
However, because the majority of the heat moves with the water vapor without affecting the air temperature, it can travel miles before being released by condensation and precipitation.
Influence of Atmospheric Pressure in Cloud Formation
Like temperature and humidity, atmospheric pressure also plays a role in cloud formation and the production of rain.
Its impact is similar to that of temperature and refers to the weight of the air.
Low pressure causes active weather, like wind and rain because the air is lighter than the surrounding air masses.
During high pressure, the air is so heavy it sinks. As the pressure drops, it can no longer keep the water vapor suspended, so it condenses out to form a cloud.
An Important Consideration
In a warm front, the warmed air slides over the cold pushing air upwards where it forms many sorts of clouds.
It includes the rain-producing nimbostratus and cumulonimbus which is also produced when the cold air mass of a cold front pushes warm air up.
Fact: Clouds always form at areas of low pressure especially where fronts collide and force air to rise.
How Humidity Affects Where Clouds Go without Raining?
When it rains the humidity is at 100%. It is raining because the air cannot support any more water vapor.
However, the rainwater becomes available for evaporation adding to the humidity by replacing the vapor lost through condensation and precipitation.
This cools and adds water to the air locally. But on a larger scale, the rain reduces humidity and can even rain out all the water vapor from the air.
The air is therefore constantly drawing water so that the higher the humidity the greater the likelihood of rain.
An Important Consideration
Just remember that even at 100% when the air is saturated there is no guarantee it will happen.
This just means at that moment the air is holding all the moisture it can.
For it to rain, there must be air rising at a rate sufficient for condensation to take place which is dependent on the air pressure and temperatures.
Where do clouds go if it doesn’t rain? In reality, clouds do not go anywhere when it does not rain but are dispersed by strong winds or turn into smaller and invisible water vapor.
Cloud droplets have the ability to transform into water vapor through the process of evaporation, which occurs within the atmosphere.
Furthermore, powerful gusts have the ability to scatter clouds, causing the moisture particles to disperse across a wider expanse, ultimately diminishing the cloud’s apparent size.
Hence, in the absence of rain, clouds undergo a transformation instead of shifting to a different spot.