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Science
Clouds
Snow and Ice

Why do clouds stay in the sky and why don't they go farther?

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June 01, 2007 2:20AM

Clouds are constantly forming and disappearing as the atmospheric conditions change. From the wording of your question, however, it seems that you wish to know why clouds stay in the atmosphere and don't actually waft off into outer space. Clouds are made of water droplets that coalesce around tiny dust particles. They will rise to an altitude where their buoyancy equals their weight. At high altitudes, even the least dense, most buoyant clouds can no longer rise, because the atmosphere is so thin. Cirrus clouds are high-altitude clouds formed from ice crystals. They usually form above 16,000 feet. Cumulonimbus clouds are vertical-forming clouds that reach altitudes of 60,000 feet. They are associated with thunderstorms.