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Requirements for cloud formation: cloud in a cup (Jen Hinerman)


Jen Hinerman    

Principle(s) Illustrated

  1. Criteria needed for cloud formation
  2. convection 


  • 6th grade Earth Science: 
    • 3c Students know heat flows in solids by conduction (which involves no flow of matter) and in fluids by conduction and by convection (which involves flow of matter). 
  • High School Earth Science:  
    • 4c:Students know the different atmospheric gases that absorb the Earth’s thermal radiation and the mechanism and significance of the greenhouse effect. 
    • 4d.* Students know the differing greenhouse conditions on Earth, Mars, and Venus; the origins of those conditions; and the climatic consequences of each. 
    • 5a.Students know how differential heating of Earth results in circulation patterns in 

      the atmosphere and oceans that globally distribute the heat. 

      5b.Students know the relationship between the rotation of Earth and the circular 

      motions of ocean currents and air in pressure centers. 

      5f.*Students know the interaction of wind patterns, ocean currents, and mountain 

      ranges results in the global pattern of latitudinal bands of rain forests and deserts.

Questioning Script

Prior knowledge & experience:

That air is a fluid and moves through convection (hot air rises and cool air sink).  Students also know the basic water cycle and that clouds are made from evaporated water to condense and form clouds and when there is too much water, it precipitates.

Root question:

How do clouds form from evaporation to precipitate?

Target response:

Clouds need water, a heat source (to rise) and a cold source (to condense) and dirt or dust particles (for the water to adhere to).

Common Misconceptions:

Students have vague and simplistic understandings of evaporation and condensation.  They tend to know that water goes up in the air with evaporation, but not that there needs to be a heat source to cause the water to evaporate.  Students also do not make the connection that the water condenses because of the cold temperature in the atmosphere.  And most importantly, students do not know that there needs to be particles for the water to adhere to in order for it to stay together as a cloud.


Learn about pressure systems and fronts.  Discuss where clouds are more likely to form and not and why.

Photographs and Movies



Cloud Information

Predicting weather based on clouds