Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a total weather geek! Driving into work Tuesday afternoon I was in awe at just how quickly the clouds developed following the sunshine we had earlier in the morning. The quick development of those cumulus clouds was due to a couple of factors.
The first had to do with what was happening above our heads. There have been several 'mini' low pressure systems rotating around one large low over southern Canada the past couple of days. Each passage of the mini low causes air to rise in the atmosphere, forming clouds and eventually spotty showers.
Second, temperatures in the middle of the atmosphere are very cool. As the sun heats up the surface of the earth, little tiny air parcels rise into the cooler section of the atmosphere. This rising motion helped create a little instability in the atmosphere, which in turn allowed showers to develop.
If you looked closely at the clouds Tuesday afternoon you may have noticed they all had one thing in common: the bases of the clouds were all flat and appeared to be forming at roughly the height in the atmosphere. Ever wonder why that is?
Where the base of the cloud forms also depends on how dry or moist the atmosphere is. The drier the atmosphere, the higher the cloud base will be. The more moist the atmosphere is, the lower the cloud base will be.