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Cloud Observation

Rebecca Teed SERC

Beautiful cumulus clouds
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In this short, serial basic-meteorology lab, students identify different cloud types and estimate cover over a period of several days.

Learning Goals

Goals Skills

Context for Use

This is a short lab, especially handy for days when the weather is bad. This activity should be repeated on different days, often at the start of another field lab exercise. Only half-an-hour to an hour of training on the first day and ten to fifteen minutes of observation and discussion (and filling out sheets) each time the exercise is repeated should be necessary.

Teaching Materials

Materials needed:

Prior training:

The datasheet should include:

Photographic keys for cloud types can be obtained from:

Teaching Notes and Tips

The class must be outside to make the observations (looking out the window doesn't really work). This is often a good exercise with which to start another field lab, as it is short, and should be repeated so that students get a chance to observe a variety of kinds of clouds and degrees of coverage, as well as time to develop some facility with the methods.


Give points for participation (and completely filling out the form), especially if the weather is bad.

References and Resources

A detailed Cloud Protocols (more info) for having students descibe clouds, complete with data sheets, is provided by Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) (more info)

Cloudman (more info) also has a table about cloud formation chart, articles about weather, activities, photography tips, many annotated photos, and some philosophy of meteorology to offer.

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Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Clouds and precipitation

Resource Type

Activities:Field Activity, Field Activity:Field laboratories, Audio/Visual:Images/Illustrations

Special Interest

Field-Based Teaching and Learning

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Atmosphere, Weather


Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Weather, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Atmospheric Science, Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field

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