Clouds appear to float so effortlessly in the sky that one would think that they are weightless. However, this is actually far from the case. A single cumulus cloud weighs 1.1 million pounds on average.To put this into perspective, that is equal to the weight of about 100 elephants or 2,500 donkeys!
Do All Clouds Have the Same Weight?
Different clouds have different densities. Therefore, different clouds have different weights. For instance, you can visibly differentiate between the thin wispy cirrus and the monstrous cumulonimbus thunderclouds. Big, dark cumulonimbus clouds carry about six times as much weight as the cumulus cloud on average.
A thin wispy cirrus cloud is 10 times lighter than a cumulus cloud. That comes to about 110 thousand grams of water or a twentieth of gram of water in each cubic meter.
How Do Clouds Stay Afloat?
These clouds contain rain, so there are millions of pounds of water floating over us at any given moment. The obvious question that follows should be how do clouds manage to stay afloat with all that weight?
The large weight is sustained because it is spread out into millions of droplets over a large space. Each of these droplets is so small that many of them will need to come together to make a single raindrop. Each of the droplets actually weighs about two microns across, meaning it is thinner than human hair, which is about 50-70 microns.
How Is the Weight of a Cloud Calculated?
Of course, we cannot grab a cloud from the sky and set it upon a scale. However, using a mathematic formula, we can make a pretty good estimate about the weight of a cloud. If a cloud spreads about one billion cubic meters in volume and has a density of a half a gram per cubic meter, it means that the cloud could contain about 1.1 million pounds of water in it. That is its weight.
The Clouds of Other Planets
Earth is not the only planet with clouds in the solar system. Interestingly, while the clouds over our planet earth are made of molecules of water, clouds over the Venus planet are made of sulfur dioxide and those over Mars are made of ice or solid water. Solid water clouds would certainly be heavier than those made of gas or water molecules.
The clouds of Jupiter and Saturn are made of layers of ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide and underneath them, water. These would definitely be heavier than the clouds above earth, Venus and Mars planets.
Uranus and Neptune have clouds made of methane gas. These clouds are lighter than those over Venus - Venus is actually said to have the heaviest clouds in the solar system.