What is the Mass of a Thunderhead?

  1. ISTM that large clouds hold a lot of water, and that water is fairly heavy.

    Which got me to wondering just how "heavy" all the water in a large thunderhead would be? I'm assuming that many, many tons of water are floating around up there, but how many?
  2. jcsd
  3. Bobbywhy

    Bobbywhy 1,864
    Gold Member

    What does "ISTM" stand for?
    Do you have any idea or sources that you've already checked?
    Every thunderstorm is different, so I would say no one can say the amount of water, in tons, that a thunderhead contains.
    If you stand on your paved street during a thunderstorm, gather up all the rainwater running off in buckets, and then weigh it, what could you infer? Would those measurements tell anything about the total amount that the thunderhead contained?
  4. Bandersnatch

    Bandersnatch 1,571
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

  5. Rogers and Yau, "A Short Course in Cloud Physics" on page 235 give the mean precipitation content of an isolated thunderhead as on the order of 109 kilograms. They also point out that the actual output during the life of a thunderhead can be more than five times that amount due to the fact that a thunderhead is a process, and not just an object.

    Does this answer your question?
  6. It seems to me that ISTM stands for It Seems To Me.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Bobbywhy

    Bobbywhy 1,864
    Gold Member

    Enigman, thank you for your translation. Since I am an "OF" (Old Fart) I needed your help.
  8. Klimatos that is exactly what I
    was wondering. Thanks. I find it amazing that so much mass can just float on air.
  9. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    This is why TSINA (text speak is not allowed) at PF, EskWIRED, please type out text speak.
  10. AlephZero

    AlephZero 7,248
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The density of water vapor is much less than the density of air, at the same pressure. Molecular weight of water = 18, compared with 28 for nitrogen, and 32 for oxygen.

    If water vapor was not light enough to "float on air", thunderheads would never form.
    1 person likes this.
  11. Water vapor is certainly lighter than dry air. However, the source that I was quoting was referring to the liquid condensate (cloud droplets) content of the thunderhead, not the water vapor content. These droplets are kept aloft by the force of the rising air balancing the downward gravitational force.

    This is easier to picture if you think of the thunderhead (and all clouds) as the visible tops of invisible masses of rising air.
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