God’s Miracle: the Clouds

A color-enhanced version of an aerial photogra...

Stratocumulus perlucidus clouds

Part 2 of a series on Science in the Bible: Water

Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge? Job 37:16

I searched online to find how heavy a rain cloud can get before it drops its load or rain.  Of course, this isn’t a simple thing since clouds are floating in the sky.  But a hot air balloon floats even though it weighs in at about 1710lb (750kg), and there’s the weight of an Airbus to consider as well!  Turns out clouds can carry a mind-boggling amount of water before the droplets get too heavy to stay aloft.

So, how does God pull this off?  Well, the best thing I can compare clouds to is how ice floats.  You’ve probably studied this already, but it never hurts to remember just how amazing God’s design for H2O actually is.  Most things get denser and denser as the temperature cools.  Water does this too as it gets colder until something miraculous happens.  When water crystallizes into ice the molecules it is made of get farther apart making ice 9% less dense than average water.  Why that happens is out of the realm of science, but we know Whom to be grateful to!!

Morning mist rising

Morning mist rising (Photo credit: Anja Jonsson)

Water vapor works in a similar way, except it is always lighter than the air it moves through.  I found a simple explanation of this at Earth Storm.org: water as a gas is quite a bit lighter than the nitrogen that makes up most of our air.  That page also shows why warmer air can hold more water vapor without raining than cool air can.  I also found a page (with a pop-up ad) that talks about how airports make more rain in the local area.  The coolest thing it talked about is that water vapor left alone (like, far away from an airport!) doesn’t freeze until it gets to be 40 below (that’s the temp which is the same in F and C!).  Fascinating stuff!

While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. Proverbs 8:26

In this chapter, Wisdom is talking about how old “she” is.  I’ve always liked the verse about how wisdom likes us people best, but today we’re talking about clouds.  So what does this verse tell us about them?  Well, if you think about how water vapor is always lighter than the air around it, why doesn’t it just stay up there forever?  That’s where the “high dust” comes in.  For water vapor to turn back into liquid it has to have a tiny particle, called a nucleus, to stick to.  This is also true for snow, although snow can also form around tiny pre-frozen ice particles.

Volcano Dreams

Volcano Dreams (Photo credit: jurvetson)

What are these particles made of?  Well, you’ll never guess, most of them are made of dust of some kind!  This can come from anything ranging from dirt specks, ashes from fires or volcanoes, exhaust fumes from cars and factories, or even sea salt spray (near the ocean).  These bits are so tiny (about 1 micrometer= 0.0001 mm) that you’d never know it was there without a super strong microscope.  The water collects around this center until it gets heavy enough to fall out of the air as a raindrop about 2mm across.

I have space for one last cool thing about rain: if rain drops fell on us without wind resistance, they could be going fast enough to kill you!  Not only does air slow down these drops, it also splits them apart if they get too big.

Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.  Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off. 

Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.  For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly. Job 36:25-28

Try out this simple, but way cool experiment from the National Weather Service (check it out anyway for the number of gallons [x 3.79 for liters] a typical rain cloud holds!)

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One thought on “God’s Miracle: the Clouds

  1. Pingback: Temperature of the Earth « Magistrate Gatekeepers

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