To create clouds, water vapor turns into small water droplets. These water drops develop on tiny particles floating in the air, including dust. Clouds vary in size and composition. This makes us wonder whether clouds can kill us.
Most cloud types are harmless and only result in rain. However, even if clouds can rarely kill you, they can often become dangerous. This is true for several occasions, like flying through the sky in an airplane and when clouds form because of volcanic eruptions and dust storms.
Continue reading to learn more about clouds that might become dangerous enough to kill you!
Are Clouds Harmful?
Most cloud types pose no threat to life on Earth. However, some can become dangerous when involved with other environmental elements.
Pyroclastic Flows result from a volcanic eruption and comprise boiling lava blocks, ash, and volcanic gas. They are known to travel down the volcano’s slope at great speeds of about 80km/hour.
Most pyroclastic flows have two parts: a turbulent cloud of ash that rises in the air and a flow of different-sized particles from the lava eruption on the ground.
The clouds in pyroclastic flows are among the most dangerous types of clouds. They destroy everything that comes their way, like houses, roads, and buildings. Also, they carry ash and stones from the lava, raising their temperatures to hundreds of degrees. So, even if the heat from the cloud itself does not kill you, the large particles covered in lava might.
Besides physical harm, pyroclastic flows can also lead to flooding in neighboring areas. As the volcano erupts, it may mix with snow and ice. This will create an instant meltdown of the snow and send large quantities of water down the streams.
Also, the sudden eruption may create lakes behind volcanic alleys. Over time, they might overflow and give rise to clouds filled with volcanic material downstream. So, these clouds can be highly dangerous and even deadly if you are nearby.
Here’s an interesting video on surviving pyroclastic flows:
Sand and Dust Storms
Strong cyclones or thunderstorms that raise wind speed over a large region often cause sand and dust storms as they drive massive volumes of particles from dry soils into the atmosphere.
Dust storms transport these particles hundreds to thousands of kilometers away from their origin.
If you are in an area nearby a sandstorm, they will negatively impact your health, especially if you already struggle with breathing correctly. Small dust can enter the lungs, get embedded deeply, and create major health issues.
Inhaling through a dust storm may cause common symptoms like burning eyes, itchy throat, irritating skin, coughing, sneezing, or more dangerous symptoms, including breathing difficulties and asthma attacks.
While these symptoms may not appear too harmful at the beginning, they can become a matter of medical urgency if they do not settle after some time.
The intensity of a dust storm relies on how the size and composition of its particles. If you are a healthy individual, your symptoms will settle shortly. However, your life may be at risk if you have health issues and breathe in through dust storm clouds for too long.
Mammatus and Lenticular Clouds
This is another type of cloud that can become dangerous enough to kill you. Mammatus clouds have a cumulus cloud base and have “pouch-like” shapes underneath them, whereas lenticular clouds are shaped like lenses and arise in a hilly area.
Although these clouds do not necessarily result in a tornado, they do carry powerful tornado-producing winds. Seeing these clouds means that there might be heavy rain, lightning, and hail in the area. If these become too strong, they can cause you harm.
Having detailed different clouds that might be dangerous and could kill you, let’s discuss other cloud types.
Different Types Of Clouds
There are numerous types of clouds in the sky, so keep reading to learn more about some of them!
These are short and hair-like shaped clouds. Cirrus clouds are more common at higher altitudes and appear whiter than any other clouds. They frequently appear before a warm front when different air densities collide at high altitudes. This signals that there will soon be a change in the weather.
These clouds are another example of those found at higher altitudes. Cirrocumulus clouds are formed of small white “cloudlets” that are held together. These clouds mostly form ripples and are evenly distributed in the sky.
Cirrocumulus clouds are primarily linked to pleasant weather. This is because any precipitation that occurs from these clouds does not reach the ground as they are too high in the sky.
The third type of high-altitude cloud is the cirrostratus cloud. They create white or colored rings that cover most parts of the sky. However, they are very light in appearance. Cirrostratus does not cause precipitation itself, but it can predict whether it will occur later.
Altostratus clouds are typically grey or blue in color and only have a few characteristics. When the cirrostratus clouds become thicker, altostratus clouds are formed as a thin layer. They are categorized as middle-layer clouds. Since altostratus clouds are thin and spread over a huge area, some sunlight can pass through them.
Altostratus clouds signal a weather change because they are formed before a warm front. Unlike numerous other cloud types, altostratus does not have more species.
Stratus clouds are categorized as low clouds. Since they do not comprise many features, stratus clouds form a white or grey layer in the sky. They can be found below 1,200 feet from the ground level. They are nearest to the ground than any other type of cloud and can occasionally be seen as mist or fog.
Stratus clouds often have almost no rain associated with them. However, if their thickness increases, they can result in light rainfall. If the temperatures are sufficiently cold, they may even produce snowfall.
There are numerous types of clouds, as stated above. However, very few clouds, including dust storms and pyroclastic flows, can become dangerous or deadly. Other cloud types only result in rain, hail, or thunderstorms.