A CIESE Realtime Data Project

Enrichment Activity 2: Cloudy Weather

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You will observe clouds and learn how to identify three (3) basic cloud formations. Additionally, you will conduct an experiment to see how a cloud forms and view real time satellite images showing local as well as international cloud conditions.


  • Weather Learning Log or Student Worksheet.
  • Clear one liter soda bottle with label removed (one per group)
  • Hot water (not boiling)
  • Ice cubes
  • Blue construction paper
  • White chalk
  • Country and World maps

Step #1: Cloud in a Bottle
Divide into groups of five - six and collect the soda bottle, hot water, and the ice cubes.

  1. Pour the hot water into the bottle and screw the cap on tightly.
  2. Answer the following questions
    • What happening to the air in the bottle?
    • How could you use the ice cube to cool the air in the bottle?
    • What do you think will happen when you open the bottle and put an ice cube at the mouth of the bottle?
  3. After 2 or 3 minutes, remove the cap and put an ice cube over the mouth of the bottle.  There should be a cloud just below the ice cube.
    • What happened? Describe your observations.
    • What happens to the air filled with water vapor when it is cooled?
    •  What two things must be present for a cloud to form?

Step #2: Cloud Observation
It is recommended that you go outside and observe clouds at least once a day over the period of a week. Complete the following three activities (2, 3, & 4) every day for a week if possible.

  1. What do you know about clouds?
    • Do all clouds bring rain?
    • What kind of clouds do you see on sunny days?
    • Have you ever seen clouds that look like feathers, animals, cotton balls, etc.? What was weirdest cloud shape you've ever seen?
  2. Go outside and use the chalk and construction paper to draw at least one cloud that you see. If you do not have chalk and construction paper, your Learning Log and a pencil will suffice.
  3. After you have completed your drawing, you should return to the classroom and write as many words as you can to describe your cloud in your Weather Learning Log. Share your pictures and words in small groups.
    (NOTE: For the observation days 2-5, you can simply sketch and label the clouds in your Weather Learning Logs once you've learned the terms.)

Step #3:  Cloud Identification
The clouds you saw in your first observation have names and you will now learn how to identify the three (3) basic types of clouds and to tell about the kind of weather they might bring.

  1. Access the cloud identification web site below where you will find photographs of high level clouds (cirrus), medium level clouds (cumulus), and low level clouds (stratus) along with a simple explanation of the weather conditions that each type indicates.
  2. Find the cloud that most closely resembles the one you drew and label it in your Weather Learning Log.
    • What kind of weather does that cloud indicate?
    • What kind of weather are we having today?

Step #4: Satellite Images
A visible satellite image, taken only in daylight, shows sunlight reflecting off of clouds near the earth's surface.

  1. Individually, or as a group of students, access a satellite map (back-up) for your region.
  2. Find approximately where your city is located on that map and answer the following questions:
    • What color are the clouds on your satellite map? 
    • What does the satellite map show about your city?  Is it partly cloudy or all cloudy? 
    • What does the satellite map tell us about the cloud conditions over our school? Look outside.  Do you agree? 
    • What could the reasons be for a difference between your observation and that of the weather satellite?
  3. Use the satellite maps (back-up) link to view and animate the most recent maps (select Loop).
  4. Find approximately where your city is located on that map and answer the following questions:
    • Which direction are the clouds moving? 
    • What does the satellite map tell us about the cloud and weather conditions later today or tomorrow? Write down your prediction and test it out by observing the weather tomorrow.
  5. Time permitting, select another city in a different region and repeat numbers one (1) to four (4) again.