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Southern AER

A Quarterly Activity Bulletin of The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources-Southeast Regional Climate Center
Fall 1997
Volume 3, No. 3

The DataStreme Project

The DataStreme Project is a major precollege teacher enhancement initiative of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Its main goal is the training of Weather Education Resource Teachers who will promote the teaching of weather across the K-12 curriculum in their home school districts.

The initial step in the training of Resource Teachers is their participation in the DataStreme distance-learning course. The 13-week course is offered twice a year to selected participants. It focuses on the study of the atmospheric environment through the use of electronically transmitted weather data and learning materials combined with Study Guide readings and investigations.

The Project is funded by the National Science Foundation with assistance from the National Weather Service and the State University of New York College at Brockport. DataStreme expects to train over 4,000 teachers nationally.

The DataStreme course is offered through DataStreme Local Implementation Teams (LITs) that are located around the country. LITs, typically composed of three members, coordinate the selection and delivery of the course to approximately eight teacher participants each semester. Each team advertises the course availability, recruits and selects participants, arranges and holds local meetings, individually mentors participants on course understandings and activities, provides participant evaluations, and assists in developing Resource Teacher action plans. Each LIT is composed of at least one master precollege teacher and most include one professional meteorologist.

Participants must be teaching professionals at the precollege level who live in an area served by a LIT. Teachers of any grade level or subject who have an interest in promoting the teaching of weather across the curriculum may apply. Many participants are earth science, middle school and upper elementary teachers. Applications are sought from persons who can demonstrate potential for leadership as resource teachers. They must be willing to act as resource persons for other teachers and as advocates for promoting the use of electronically-delivered environmental data in schools.

Teachers who are members of groups traditionally under-represented in the sciences, or teachers who are teaching in schools with large numbers of students from groups traditionally under-represented in the sciences, are especially urged to apply.

For additional information contact Sandi St.Claire at (803) 737-0849 or us. You will then be put in touch with the nearest LIT Leader to your location.


Clouds: Where Would We Be Without Them?

Clouds are seen in the sky almost every day. Although everyone recognizes that not all clouds look alike, not everyone realizes why they look different, or what type of weather they may bring. You may not know exactly what clouds are made of, or even that you may, with a lot of practice, eventually be able to correctly generalize a forecast just by paying close attention to them. Pay close attention to the following paragraphs and you will be on your way!


Clouds are collections of billions of very small water droplets, ice crystals, or a combination of both that are suspended in the air. All forms of precipitation come from clouds. Without them, there would be no rain or snow, thunder or lightning, or even rainbows. Clouds, and the precipitation they produce, are vital to all natural processes.

Cloud Formation

Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. As warm, moisture rich air rises into the upper atmosphere, it cools. The water vapor that is present in the air condenses on dust and particles in the atmosphere and forms tiny water droplets. The droplets then begin to fall. As they reach the lower part of the cloud, however, they evaporate quickly. A cloud is actually a cycle of water droplets forming, falling and then evaporating. The particles in the atmosphere on which the water condenses are called cloud nuclei. This is why you may see a jet leave one long cloud behind it as it flies through the air; the fumes coming off the jet act as cloud nuclei.

Cloud Types

There are four major cloud groups, and each group has different types. Each of the major groups are identified by the height at which they occur in the atmosphere. Within each of the four groups, there are different cloud types that are identified by their appearance.
bulletHigh Clouds: clouds with their bases between 16,000 to 43,000 feet above the ground
bulletMiddle Clouds: clouds with their bases between 6500 to 23,000 feet above the ground
bulletLow Clouds: clouds with their bases from the ground up to 6500 feet
bulletClouds with upward development: clouds that have more height than width

Clouds are classified by the height at which they occur because the atmosphere gets colder with height. It is because of this that clouds at different heights have different compositions. High clouds are thin and composed almost exclusively of ice crystals. Middle clouds are composed of water droplets and some ice crystals when the temperature gets low enough. Low clouds are almost always composed of water droplets. However, when temperatures are very cool, clouds may contain ice particles and snow. Fog is also considered to be a low cloud with its base at the earth's surface.

(For true/false questions, rewrite the false statements to make them true.)

1. True or False? Clouds are only composed of water droplets.

2. What type of air can hold more moisture...warm or cold air?

3. What are dust particles called when water droplets form on them high in the atmosphere?

4. True or False? Most clouds form from heating that occurs due to the expansion of air.

5. What are high, middle, and low clouds composed of?

6. True or False? Fog is considered a low cloud with its base at the earth's surface.

7. Draw and label the four cloud types according to the height at which they would be found.

   42,000 ft

   35,000 ft

   28,000 ft

   21,000 ft

   14,000 ft

    7,000 ft

        0 ft      
                   High        Middle       Low       Vertical

8. True or False? Air in the upper atmosphere is warm and dense.

9. What type of weather would you expect to have if clouds did not exist?

Cirrus High curly thin clouds that look like feathers summer, clear
Cirrocumulus High small rounded puffs clear, sunny
Cirrostratus High thin, sheetlike white or pale gray; often covers the entire sky anytime, but also used to predict snow
Altostratus Middle gray- covers the entire sky stormy days
Altocumulus Middle gray puffy bands summer, stormy days
Stratus Low uniform grayish clouds overcast, found in coastal areas
Stratocumulus Low light to dark gray rounded masses in rows or patches at sunset- fair weather
Nimbostratus Low dark gray covers entire sky steady precipitation
Cumulus Vertical Development puffy cotton type, can be either white or gray fair weather when not very tall, or stormy if very tall
Cumulonimbus Vertical Development dark, anvil shaped violent storms


10. Which of the above cloud types may indicate the formation of a thunderstorm, possibly producing a tornado?

11. What are the three types of clouds listed in the table that often cover the entire sky?

12. Although _______ clouds may occur anytime, they may also indicate snow.

13. Using crayons or colored pencils, draw the clouds and the types of weather associated with the cloud.


                Cumulus                           Cirrus

                Nimbostratus                   Cumulonimbus

TEACHERS Click here to send mail for answers to the activity questions.


Southern AER is a quarterly publication of the Southeast Regional Climate Center. Funding is provided by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Internet Resources On Clouds

bulletUniversity of Illinois Instructional Resources on Clouds

Permission is granted for the reproduction of materials contained in this bulletin.

Southern AER
Southeast Regional Climate Center
S.C. Department of Natural Resources
1201 Main Street, Suite 1100
Columbia, South Carolina 29201

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, disability, religion, or age. Direct all inquiries to the Office of Human Resources, P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202.