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Photo by Wai Hsuen Chan via Unsplash

Database Provider


Crash Course


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Geography

Resource Type

  • Videos, 10 minutes, 18 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus


What Is a Cloud?

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  • This video explains the three types of clouds, how cloud characteristics can indicate atmospheric conditions and help us predict weather patterns, how humidity and water vapor are connected to cloud formation and rain, and how different types of clouds absorb or reflect differing amounts of radiation. 
  • An important emphasis of the video is the role of clouds in naturally warming and cooling the atmosphere.
Teaching Tips


  • The relationship between cloud type and altitude is readily observable. Students can take a trip outside of the school or take a look on their ride home for a chance to apply their newly-acquired knowledge.
  • The animations in this video are engaging.  

Additional Prerequisites

  • Making students aware that water vapor is invisible and that liquid water/ice droplets are the components of clouds may help avoid a possible misconception that could be derived from the video at the 1:18 mark. 
  • To provide deeper context ahead of time, familiarize students with the terms dew point, relative humidity, condensation nuclei, and the concept of latent heat. 


  • Students could be asked to construct some basic line graphs to show the relationship between air temperature and evaporation, air temperature and condensation, and air temperature and altitude in the troposphere. 
  • Having students create a cloud journal where they can capture their observations of clouds over a succession of days is a fun way to engage students before or after viewing this resource. 
  • This video is a great launching point for activities related to the atmosphere.
  • The role of clouds trapping or reflecting radiation from the sun is a central piece in this video. Have students dig a little deeper into the albedo effect with this activity.
Scientist Notes
This video from Crash Course offers a succinct primer on clouds and the hydrologic cycle and why they are such important aspects of weather and climate. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.
      • MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
    • PS3: Energy
      • HS-PS3-4 Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that the transfer of thermal energy when two components of different temperature are combined within a closed system results in a more uniform energy distribution among the components in the system (second law of thermodynamics).
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