Cumulonimbus clouds: The magnificent menace in the sky

Meteorologist Philippa Drew takes a closer look at one of her favourite clouds and shares some of your dramatic pictures…

I love seeing cumulonimbus clouds, not only because they are an impressive sight, but because inevitably it means some pretty dramatic weather is nearby!

Cumulonimbus clouds are the biggest clouds in the atmosphere, some growing taller than Mount Everest, no wonder they’re known as ‘The King Of Clouds’.

The name comes from the Latin words ‘cumulus’ - meaning heap, and ‘nimbus’ - meaning rain.

These clouds are mainly formed through convection, when the air is heated from the surface below, causing it to rise and condense into droplets. The more heat and moisture, the bigger the clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds can grow so tall that they hit the top of the troposphere. At this point they are forced to spread outwards, creating the infamous anvil shape.

The weather they bring is as varied as it is dramatic, thunder and lightning, hail, torrential downpours, gusty winds and even tornadoes to name a few, potentially wreaking havoc along the way.

Here’s to the magnificent menace in the sky…

Cumulonimbus above Hove Credit: Jeff Longland
Cumulonimbus over East Burton Credit: Des & Shirley Peadon
Cumulonimbus with anvil top Credit: Ray Cook

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