Why are Clouds White?

White clouds against a beautiful blue sky
White clouds against a beautiful blue sky

Kam loves clouds and the skies.

“Mum, yes Kam”
“Why are clouds in the sky”
“Well, they bring rain.”
“No, not the grey clouds, the white ones, they look like stars, but very close.”
“White clouds are full of water droplets, the same as grey rain clouds.”
“They can’t be, water is clear and you can see through it. The white clouds are white, not clear.  Why are clouds white?”

Absolutely Kam.  I need more detail; at the moment I don’t know.  Let’s find out.

White Clouds and Light.

Presteine white clouds against a blue sky
Pristine  white clouds against a blue sky

Clouds are full of lots of tiny, round water droplets or ice crystals.  Clouds forms when water vapour condenses. (Changes state from vapour to liquid).

The sun’s light travels in wavelengths and scatters or refracts as it passes through the droplets.  The water droplets are large enough to scatter light within visible spectrum.

Visible light wavelengths
Each color in a rainbow corresponds to a different wavelength of electromagnetic spectrum.

The 7 unique visible spectrum wavelengths are the colours : red, orange, yellow, green, blueindigo and violet light. When these colours combine, we see white light.

(The Sun emits lots of other types of energy; we cannot see these energy wavelengths with our eyes.)


A Note to You and Me.

I think I know what is coming next.  When I paint and mix colours together, my painting is black not white.  Let’s see!

If you can help, I’d appreciate it.  Please add a comment if you can point me in the right direction.

Thank you for reading. If you like this post please tell us about it, Kam is eager to see that people do actually read his questions…. Thanks. X

We’d love you to have a look at our other posts.  We’ve written about clouds, here is the link: What are Clouds?.
Also, we’ve written a cloud poem: Clouds



4 thoughts on “Why are Clouds White?

  1. quirkyintrovert May 8, 2015 / 04:30

    I love it when people are curious, so I’m happy to see that you’re looking for answers and sharing them.

    Paint appears a certain color because the pigments in it absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others. For example, the pigment in red paint absorbs the wavelengths OYGBIV and reflects red. So if you mix all your paints together, you will end up with a glob of pigments that absorb all the wavelengths of visible light. Since all the light is absorbed, none is reflected, and the resulting “color” appears black.

    It’s important to remember that light really isn’t colored. Instead, it is a wave that exists in different wavelengths/frequencies that are perceived as different colors by the eye and brain. When light strikes receptors in the eye, it sends a chemical signal to the brain, which perceives it as color. That is why when all the different wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum strike the receptors in the eye, it is perceived as white.

    Technically, objects don’t have a color. The color that an object appears to be is the result of the interaction of light and the atoms that the object is made of (i.e. whether it is reflected or absorbed) and the reflected wavelengths interacting with receptors in the eye.

    I hope I explained it clearly. For further reading, I recommend this site: http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/light/Lesson-2/The-Electromagnetic-and-Visible-Spectra


    • Kamtime May 8, 2015 / 13:52

      This is fantastic, thank you so much. I will put this into a post in the next couple of weeks if that’s ok. I’ve read it a couple of times and I get it. Will let you know before I post and reference you if that’s ok. x

      Liked by 1 person

      • quirkyintrovert May 9, 2015 / 14:32

        No problem! I enjoy explaining things, and I always check other sources to make sure I don’t spread wrong information.

        Liked by 1 person

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