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A lenticular cloud over the Tararua Range mountains, New Zealand.

Detailed Description

Clouds in the atmosphere - The water cycle

This picture shows a lenticular cloud over the Tararua Range mountains, North Island, New Zealand. What's happening above those mountains? Several clouds are stacked up into one striking lenticular cloud. Normally, air moves much more horizontally than it does vertically. Sometimes, however, such as when wind comes off of a mountain or a hill, relatively strong vertical oscillations take place as the air stabilizes. The dry air at the top of an oscillation may be quite stratified in moisture content, and hence forms clouds at each layer where the air saturates with moisture. The result can be a lenticular cloud with a strongly layered appearance.

In this picture, the sun is probably low in the sky off to the right side., with the sunlight coming upward and hitting the bottom of the clouds. The clouds are made of trillions of tiny water droplets that are clear but still reflect light (as a prism). The way in which light is reflected from an object determines what color you see. White light, as from the sun, is actually made up of light waves that produce all colors, but mixed together, look white.

The mountains look green because when sunlight hits the plants and trees, they reflect more of the green portion of the sunlight to your eyes. So, because of the way water drops reflect light, at the moment this picture was taken, the drops were reflecting the parts of sunlight that look golden to you. The main thing is to enjoy your sunrises and sunsets even if you don't understand how they work.

Components of the water cycle:
Atmosphere    Condensation    Evaporation    Evapotranspiration    Groundwater flow    Groundwater storage    Ice and snow    Infiltration    Lakes and freshwater    Oceans    Precipitation    Snowmelt    Springs    Streamflow    Sublimation    Surface runoff


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