AskDefine | Define cloudy

Dictionary Definition

cloudy adj
1 lacking definite form or limits; "gropes among cloudy issues toward a feeble conclusion"- H.T.Moore; "nebulous distinction between pride and conceit" [syn: nebulose, nebulous]
2 (of especially liquids) clouded as with sediment; "a cloudy liquid"; "muddy coffee"; "murky waters" [syn: muddy, mirky, murky, turbid]
3 full of or covered with clouds; "cloudy skies" [ant: clear] [also: cloudiest, cloudier]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Covered with or characterised by clouds; overcast.
  2. Not transparent or clear.
  3. Uncertain; unclear.


covered with or characterised by clouds

Extensive Definition

A cloud is a visible mass of droplets or frozen crystals floating in the atmosphere above the surface of the Earth or another planetary body. A cloud is also a visible mass attracted by gravity (clouds can also occur as masses of material in interstellar space, where they are called interstellar clouds and nebulae.) The branch of meteorology in which clouds are studied is nephology.
On Earth the condensing substance is typically water vapor, which forms small droplets or ice crystals, typically 0.01 mm in diameter. When surrounded by billions of other droplets or crystals they become visible as clouds. Dense deep clouds exhibit a high reflectance (70% to 95%) throughout the visible range of wavelengths: they thus appear white, at least from the top. Cloud droplets tend to scatter light efficiently, so that the intensity of the solar radiation decreases with depth into the gases, hence the gray or even sometimes dark appearance of the clouds at their base. Thin clouds may appear to have acquired the color of their environment or background, and clouds illuminated by non-white light, such as during sunrise or sunset, may be colored accordingly. In the near-infrared range, clouds would appear darker because the water that constitutes the cloud droplets strongly absorbs solar radiation at those wavelengths.
Clouds are divided into two general categories: layered and convective. These are named stratus clouds (or stratiform, the Latin stratus means "layer") and cumulus clouds (or cumuliform; cumulus means "piled up"). These two cloud types are divided into four more groups that distinguish the cloud's altitude. Clouds are classified by the cloud base height, not the cloud top. This system was proposed by Luke Howard in 1802 in a presentation to the Askesian Society.

High clouds (Family A)

These generally form above , in the cold region of the troposphere. In Polar regions, they may form as low as ; they are denoted by the prefix cirro- or cirrus. At this altitude, water frequently freezes so clouds are composed of ice crystals. The clouds tend to be wispy and are often transparent.
Clouds in Family A include:

Middle clouds (Family B)

These develop between 6,500 and 20,000 feet (between 2,000 and 6,000 m) and are denoted by the prefix alto-. They are made of water droplets and are frequently supercooled.

Low clouds (Family C)

These are found up to 6,500 feet (2,000 m) and include the stratus (dense and grey). When stratus clouds contact the ground, they are called fog.
Clouds in Family C include:

Vertical clouds (Family D)

These clouds can have strong up-currents, rise far above their bases and form at many heights.
Clouds in Family D include:

Other clouds

A few clouds can be found above the troposphere; these include noctilucent and polar stratospheric clouds (or nacreous clouds), which occur in the mesosphere and stratosphere respectively.
Some clouds form as a consequence of interactions with specific geographical features. Perhaps the strangest geographically-specific cloud in the world is Morning Glory, a rolling cylindrical cloud which appears unpredictably over the Gulf of Carpentaria in Northern Australia. Associated with a powerful "ripple" in the atmosphere, the cloud may be "surfed" in unpowered glider aircraft.

Cloud fields

A cloud field is simply a group of clouds but sometimes cloud fields can take on certain shapes that have their own characteristics and are specially classified. Stratocumulus clouds can often be found in the following forms:
  • Open cell, which resembles a honeycomb, with clouds around the edges and clear, open space in the middle.
  • Closed cell, which is cloudy in the center and clear on the edges, similar to a filled honeycomb.
  • Actinoform, which resembles a leaf or a spoked wheel.


The color of a cloud tells much about what is going on inside the cloud. Clouds form when relatively warm air containing water vapor is lighter than its surrounding air and this causes it to rise. As it rises it cools and the vapor condenses out of the air as micro-droplets. These tiny particles of water are relatively densely packed and sunlight cannot penetrate far into the cloud before it is reflected out, giving a cloud its characteristic white color. As a cloud matures, the droplets may combine to produce larger droplets, which may combine to form droplets large enough to fall as rain. In this process of accumulation, the space between droplets becomes larger and larger, permitting light to penetrate much farther into the cloud. If the cloud is sufficiently large and the droplets within are spaced far enough apart, it may be that a percentage of the light which enters the cloud is not reflected back out before it is absorbed (Think of how much farther one can see in a heavy rain as opposed to how far one can see in a heavy fog). This process of reflection/absorption is what leads to the range of cloud color from white through grey through black. For the same reason, the undersides of large clouds and heavy overcasts appear various degrees of grey; little light is being reflected or transmitted back to the observer.
Other colours occur naturally in clouds. Bluish-grey is the result of light scattering within the cloud. In the visible spectrum, blue and green are at the short end of light's visible wavelengths, while red and yellow are at the long end. The short rays are more easily scattered by water droplets, and the long rays are more likely to be absorbed. The bluish color is evidence that such scattering is being produced by rain-sized droplets in the cloud.
A greenish tinge to a cloud is produced when sunlight is scattered by ice. A cumulonimbus cloud which shows green is an imminent sign of heavy rain, hail, strong winds and possible tornadoes.
Yellowish clouds are rare but may occur in the late spring through early fall months during forest fire season. The yellow color is due to the presence of smoke.
Red, orange and pink clouds occur almost entirely at sunrise/sunset and are the result of the scattering of sunlight by the atmosphere. The clouds are not that color; they are reflecting the long (and unscattered) rays of sunlight which are predominant at those hours. The effect is much the same as if one were to shine a red spotlight on a white sheet. In combination with large, mature thunderheads this can produce blood-red clouds. The evening before the Edmonton, Alberta tornado in 1987, Edmontonians observed such clouds — deep black on their dark side and intense red on their sunward side. In this case the adage "red sky at night, sailor's delight" was wrong.The cloud was white because the reflection of the sun

Global dimming

The recently recognized phenomenon of global dimming is thought to be caused by changes to the reflectivity of clouds due to the increased presence of aerosols and other particulates in the atmosphere.

Global brightening

New research From Dimming to Brightening: Decadal Changes in Solar Radiation at Earth's Surface by Martin Wild et al. (Science 6 May 2005; 308: 847-850) indicates global brightening trend.
Global brightening is caused by decreased amounts of particulate matter in the atmosphere. With less particulate matter there is less surface area for condensation to occur. Since there's less condensation in the atmosphere and increased evaporation caused by increasing amounts of sunlight striking the water's surface there is more moisture, causing fewer but thicker clouds.

Clouds on other planets

Within our solar system, any planet or moon with an atmosphere also has clouds. Venus' clouds are composed entirely of sulfuric acid droplets. Mars has high, thin clouds of water ice. Both Jupiter and Saturn have an outer cloud deck composed of ammonia clouds, an intermediate deck of ammonium hydrosulfide clouds and an inner deck of water clouds. Uranus and Neptune have atmospheres dominated by methane clouds.
Saturn's moon Titan has clouds which are believed to be composed largely of droplets of liquid methane. The Cassini-Huygens Saturn mission has uncovered evidence of a fluid cycle on Titan, including lakes near the poles and fluvial channels on the surface of the moon.


  • Hamblyn, Richard The Invention of Clouds — How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies Picador; Reprint edition (August 3, 2002). ISBN 0312420013
  • Could Reducing Global Dimming Mean a Hotter, Dryer World?


cloudy in Arabic: سحاب
cloudy in Aragonese: Boira
cloudy in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܥܢܢܐ
cloudy in Aymara: Qinaya
cloudy in Min Nan: Hûn
cloudy in Bosnian: Oblak
cloudy in Breton: Koumoul
cloudy in Bulgarian: Облак
cloudy in Catalan: Núvol
cloudy in Czech: Oblak
cloudy in Corsican: Nivulu
cloudy in Welsh: Cwmwl
cloudy in Danish: Sky (meteorologi)
cloudy in Pennsylvania German: Wolk
cloudy in German: Wolke
cloudy in Estonian: Pilv
cloudy in Modern Greek (1453-): Νέφος
cloudy in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Nóvvla
cloudy in Spanish: Nube
cloudy in Esperanto: Nubo
cloudy in Basque: Hodei
cloudy in Extremaduran: Nubi
cloudy in Persian: ابر
cloudy in French: Nuage
cloudy in Friulian: Nûl
cloudy in Scottish Gaelic: Neul
cloudy in Galician: Nube
cloudy in Korean: 구름
cloudy in Hindi: बादल
cloudy in Croatian: Oblaci
cloudy in Indonesian: Awan
cloudy in Inuktitut: ᓄᕗᔭᖅ/nuvujaq
cloudy in Icelandic: Ský
cloudy in Italian: Nuvola
cloudy in Hebrew: ענן
cloudy in Kurdish: Ewr
cloudy in Latin: Nubes
cloudy in Latvian: Mākoņi
cloudy in Luxembourgish: Wollek
cloudy in Lithuanian: Debesis
cloudy in Hungarian: Felhő
cloudy in Macedonian: Облак
cloudy in Malayalam: മേഘം
cloudy in Malay (macrolanguage): Awan
cloudy in Dutch: Wolk
cloudy in Cree: ᑲᔥᑰᐧᐃᓐ
cloudy in Japanese: 雲
cloudy in Norwegian: Sky
cloudy in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sky
cloudy in Narom: Nouage
cloudy in Polish: Chmura
cloudy in Portuguese: Nuvem
cloudy in Romanian: Nor
cloudy in Quechua: Phuyu
cloudy in Russian: Облако
cloudy in Sicilian: Nùvula
cloudy in Simple English: Cloud
cloudy in Slovak: Oblak
cloudy in Slovenian: Oblak
cloudy in Serbian: Облак
cloudy in Serbo-Croatian: Oblak
cloudy in Sundanese: Awan
cloudy in Finnish: Pilvi
cloudy in Swedish: Moln
cloudy in Telugu: మేఘం
cloudy in Thai: เมฆ
cloudy in Vietnamese: Mây
cloudy in Tajik: Абр
cloudy in Cherokee: ᎤᎶᎩᎸ
cloudy in Turkish: Bulut
cloudy in Ukrainian: Хмари
cloudy in Yiddish: וואלקן
cloudy in Contenese: 雲
cloudy in Samogitian: Debesis
cloudy in Chinese: 云

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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