Cumulus congestus cloud
|Cumulus congestus cloud|
A example of cumulus congestus clouds viewed from the distance.
|Altitude||up to 6,000 m
(up to 20,000 ft)
|Classification||Family D (Vertically developed)|
|Appearance||sharp outlines and great vertical development|
|Precipitation cloud?||common, but usually not heavy.|
Cumulus congestus clouds are a form of cumulus cloud that can be based in the low or middle height ranges. They achieve considerable vertical development (family D2) in areas of deep, moist convection. They are an intermediate stage between cumulus mediocris and cumulonimbus.
Cumulus congestus clouds are characteristic of unstable areas of the atmosphere which are undergoing convection. They are often characterized by sharp outlines and great vertical development. Because they are produced by strong updrafts, they are typically taller than they are wide, and cloud tops can reach 6 kilometres (20,000 ft), or higher in the tropics. Cumulus congestus clouds are formed by the development of cumulus mediocris generally, though they can also be formed from altocumulus castellanus or stratocumulus castellanus as well. The congestus species of cloud can only be found in the genus cumulus.
Cumulus congestus will mature into cumulonimbus calvus under conditions of sufficient instability. This transformation can be seen by the presence of smooth, fibrous, or striated aspects assumed by the cloud's upper part. This cloud type produces precipitation, often in abundance.
An approaching weather front often brings mid level clouds such as altostratus or altocumulus which usually stop any cumulus from reaching the congestus stage by reducing the Sun's heat or acting as a layer of stable air through which the cumulus cannot rise through. Occasionally, however, particularly if the air below the mid level cloud is very warm or unstable, some of the cumuli may become congestus and the tops of them may rise above the mid level cloud layer, sometimes resulting in showers ahead of the main rainband. This is often a sign that the approaching front contains at least a few cumulonimbi amongst the nimbostratus rain clouds and therefore any rain may be accompanied by thunderstorms.
Turkey tower is slang for a narrow, individual towering cloud from a small cumulus cloud which develops and suddenly falls apart. Sudden development of turkey towers could signify the breaking or weakening of a capping inversion.
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- Richard H. Johnson, Thomas M. Rickenbach, Steven A. Rutledge, Paul E. Ciesielski, and Wayne H. Schubert. "Trimodal Characteristics of Tropical Convection". Journal of Climate (American Meteorological Society).
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