Weather Wise Kids: Why do clouds turn gray before it rains?

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Question:  Trinity, 6th Grader

Most clouds are white, but rain clouds are usually a darker shade of gray.  They are gray because of their thickness or height.

Basically, clouds look gray when they block out sunlight.  A cloud gets thicker as it gathers more water droplets and ice crystals.  The thicker a cloud gets, the less light can pass through it.

So when you look up at a rain cloud, the base or bottom of it looks gray.

But not all dark clouds bring rain, and sometimes this is hard to predict.

Here are some signs to look for…   If you hear thunder or see lightning, get ready for rain in the area.  That’s pretty obvious, right?  Well another sign, if the bottom of a dark cloud looks smooth, it’s probably producing some rain.

Some people even claim they can smell the rain coming.

And finally, another sign of rain, especially in the summer, is when the wind switches direction and increases quickly.

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