Cumulonimbus cloud

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Cumulonimbus cloud
Cumulonimbus capillatus incus
Cumulonimbus capillatus incus
Abbreviation Cb
Symbol Clouds CL 9.svg
Genus Cumulonimbus (heap, storm/rain)
Altitude 2,000 – 18,000 m
(6,500–60,000 ft)
Classification Family D (Vertically developed)
Appearance Very tall and large clouds
Precipitation cloud? Yes, often intense

Cumulonimbus, from the Latin cumulus ("heap") and nimbus ("rainstorm", "storm cloud"), is a dense towering vertical cloud associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability, forming from water vapor carried by powerful upward air currents. Cumulonimbus can form alone, in clusters, or along cold front squall lines. These clouds are capable of producing lightning and other dangerous severe weather, such as gusts, hail, and occasional tornadoes. Cumulonimbus progress from overdeveloped cumulus congestus clouds and may further develop as part of a supercell. Cumulonimbus is abbreviated Cb and are designated in the D2 family.


An exceptionally clearly developed single-cell Cumulonimbus incus Big displaying the classic anvil shape; associated gusts may occur from the direct proximity to several times the height of the cloud.
Cumulonimbus capillatus incus

Cumulonimbus clouds are typically accompanied by lower altitude cumulus clouds, growing vertically instead of horizontally, contributing to the mushroom shape of the cumulonimbus. The cumulonimbus base may extend several miles across and occupy low to middle altitudes- formed at altitude from approximately 500 to 13,000 ft (200 to 4,000 m). Peaks typically reach to as much as 20,000 ft (6,000 m), with extreme instances as high as 75,000 ft (23,000 m).[1] Well-developed cumulonimbus clouds are characterized by a flat, anvil-like top (anvil dome), caused by wind shear or inversion near the tropopause. The shelf of the anvil may precede the main cloud's vertical component for many miles, and be accompanied by lightning. Occasionally, rising air parcels surpass the equilibrium level (due to momentum) and form an overshooting top culminating at the maximum parcel level. When vertically developed, this largest of all clouds usually extends through all three cloud regions. Even the smallest cumulonimbus cloud dwarfs its neighbors in comparison. In other words, they look like huge clouds with flat tops.


Supplementary features[edit]


Cumulonimbus storm cells can produce torrential rain of a convective nature and flash flooding, as well as straight-line winds. Most storm cells die after about 20 minutes, when the precipitation causes more downdraft than updraft, causing the energy to dissipate. If there is enough solar energy in the atmosphere, however (on a hot summer's day, for example), the moisture from one storm cell can evaporate rapidly—resulting in a new cell forming just a few miles from the former one. This can cause thunderstorms to last for several hours. Cumulonimbus clouds can also bring dangerous winter storms (called "blizzards") which bring lightning, thunder, and torrential snow. However, cumulonimbus clouds are most common in tropical regions.

Cloud types[edit]

Main article: List of cloud types

Clouds form when the dewpoint of water is reached in the presence of condensation nuclei in the troposphere. The atmosphere is a dynamic system, and the local conditions of turbulence, uplift and other parameters give rise to many types of clouds. Various types of clouds occur frequently enough to have been categorized. Furthermore, some atmospheric processes can make the clouds organize in distinct patterns such as wave clouds or actinoform clouds. These are large-scale structures and are not always readily identifiable from single point of view.

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