ELIF: Why are some clouds darker than others? Is this water saturation and if so, how does this work with light and fluffy(very technical term) clouds?

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ELIF: Why are some clouds darker than others? Is this water saturation and if so, how does this work with light and fluffy(very technical term) clouds?

In: Biology

The perceived darkness of a cloud depends on which part of the cloud you’re looking at, how dense the cloud is, the sun’s orientation to the cloud, and your orientation to the cloud.

Let’s say there’s a dense cumulus cloud overhead. Cumulus clouds are relatively low in the atmosphere. If you can see the top of the cloud, it’s white and fluffy because light from the sun bounces off the millions of tiny water droplets. If you’re under the cloud it looks dark because you’re not seeing the sun directly bounce off the bottom of the cloud. The millions of water droplets block the sun from reaching the bottom of the cloud. The wider and taller the cloud, the less light will reach the bottom of the cloud.

If there’s a high, wispy, cirrus cloud in the sky, it’s not a very dense or tall like the cumulus. Its low density allows most of the light to pass through, so it’s a little grey, but not as dark as the bottom of the cumulus cloud.