Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is Cloud Movement Dependent On Wind?

  1. Jul 21, 2008 #1
    It seems to make intuitive sense for cloud movement to be dependent on wind, but is it actually true? Isn't the Coriolis Force a bigger factor in cloud movement?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2008 #2
    What else is a cloud than a visible portion of the air? When air moves it is called 'wind'. So what if a cloud moves? Of course all motions in a rotating system are subject to coriolis force.

    Note also that wind at higher altitudes usually has another direction than the surface wind. See Buys Ballots law.

    For completeness, the water droplets forming the clouds are falling very slowly, independent of the wind.
  4. Jul 22, 2008 #3
    Ah, thanks. Yeah, I should of remembered that clouds are just a visible portion of air.
  5. Jul 22, 2008 #4
    The reason why I asked the question is because I was wondering whether or not if clouds that were presently overhead would remain overhead if the winds remained calm.
  6. Jul 22, 2008 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    What the coriolis force does is affect the direction of the prevailing wind.
  7. Jul 27, 2008 #6
    You have asked about clouds and wind. Cloud motion portrays the wind the cloud is in. Clouds are horizontally passive. What would be unusual would be prolonged calm at cloud altitude to keep them in one place. Clouds form in rising moist air, generating local air flow by their heat of formation. This flow determines their shape, changing with altitude. The feathery cirrus clouds form in high air cold enough to force them to be ice, not water. Unlike dry air, clouds acquire heat from the Sun and Earth, letting them rise during the day and not fall out of the sky at night. Clouds act on light uniquely in what is called Mie scattering, shading and usually cooling the Earth below. They also reflect sunlight into space. They are therefore very important in weather and climate.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook