Jumbo Behind the Nimbo

Photo Jun 26, 2 02 54 PM

Nimbostratus clouds in WCC’s “bowl”

Doing a citizen science project has taught me so much. I thought I knew a lot about clouds, but I was just skimming the surface. In my previous post, Hero or Villian?, I talked about how low clouds impact the climate and that, according to my observations, we saw more nimbostratus clouds. So I would like to go more into depth about those clouds. You’ll learn just how important they are like I did.

Nimbostratus clouds are low clouds only about 6,500 feet in the air, but you already knew that. These clouds form downward from altostratus clouds to make “the rain cloud”. This cloud is very thick so it prevents the sun from getting through. If you’ve ever been out on a shady or rainy day, you’ll notice that there is no sun because nimbostratus clouds are blocking it.

The citizen science project I chose is called S’COOL Rover. You go and observe the cloud type, height, visual opacity, and cover. Then we upload our observations to the site. Doing this helps NASA learn more about how these clouds affect the atmosphere.

My group and I went out to the middle of campus to a spot called the “bowl” even on rainy days. There was absolutely no break in the clouds and they were dark grey, and of course it was pouring and we were getting soaked-the things you do for science. We did this for five days and very often we found that there were nimbostratus clouds in the sky. Those days were often cooler than any others.

Some of our observations are as followed:


  • Temperature: 73 degrees F
  • Time: 1:31
  • Cloud type: nimbostratus
  • Cloud height: low 1.3 km
  • Cloud cover: broken
  • Visual opacity: opaque
  • Extra: rain/drizzle


  • Temperature: 72 degrees F
  • Time: 1:26
  • Cloud type: nimbostratus
  • Cloud height: 1.3 km
  • Cloud cover: overcast
  • Visual opacity: opaque
  • Extra: raining

You can see that on these days the skies were completely covered and it was only about 73 degrees. The clouds were also opaque, which means you can’t see through them at all. These clouds are super important for our climate. They cool the earth off by blocking the sun and the rain is great for the plants. We rarely hear anyone talk about how much these clouds do for us but they are doing great things for our world.