What is a Convective Cloud?

Convective clouds develop through a sequence of events. First, incoming solar radiation heats the surface of the Earth, warming the air and causing water to evaporate into the air. That warm moist air then rises (due to basic principles of physics that warm air rises), creating upward air movement and bringing with it gases, dust particles, and chemicals from lower levels. As that moist air rises, it cools and condenses – creating many, tiny water droplets and ice crystals, forming cumulus clouds. The cloud particles then grow and eventually fall from the sky in different forms – snow, hail, rain, etc. – depending on the temperature.

When you see or hear a thunderstorm, it is really a mature convective cumulus cloud. So what you might call a boisterous thunderstorm is in fact a deep convective cloud!

Convection is a key aspect to this study because it provides the vertical transport of air and chemicals from the lower level to the upper level of the troposphere. The troposphere is the lowest of the five layers of the atmosphere, and is where all of the weather that we experience on a daily basis occurs.

DC3 is taking a closer look at the physical and chemical processes that occur to air parcels while in the deep convective clouds, as well as what happens to the transported chemicals as the cloud system dissipates.

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