Due to being virtually always present clouds are one of the most common objects affected by the attacks or powers of characters. As such how to calculate feats involving the creation, destruction or movement of clouds is of common interest.

Cloud Volume

The first step necessary for any cloud calculation is determining how much of a certain cloud was affected (created, destroyed or moved). Pixel scaling is the most reliable way to do so and the first thing one should try to do. However, in case of clouds there often is nothing one could scale from. Hence two other practices are often relevant.

Distance to the Horizon

If all clouds visible in the sky are affected and the view to the horizon is not obstructed by obstacles, through for example buildings or trees, one can use the distance to the horizon to figure out the radius in which the clouds are affected.

Here is a good explanation how to determine the distance to the horizon. Quickly summarized the distance s to the horizon along the curved surface of the earth is

s = R*arccos(R/R+h)

where R is the radius of the earth (6371000m) and h is the height of the observer above the ground (in meters). Remember that the arccos is in radians.

Using this distance the area the clouds cover can for short distances (short compared to the earth radius) simply be approximated with the area of a circle pi*s2. For large s it is advised to go through the extra work to determine the proper surface area of the spherical cap.

This calculator gives an approximation of the distance to the horizon which is more or less decent for low distances.

Characteristic Cloud Thickness

Different types of clouds have a characteristic thickness to them. The thickness is the distance from the lower border to the upper border of the clouds. If clouds can't be directly scaled this is usually the only way to figure out the height to use for the calculation of the affected cloud volume.

Cloud Type Description Characteristic Thickness Appearance
cirrus Generally characterized by thin, wispy strands. They are usually white or light gray in colour. Since cirrus clouds arrive in advance of the frontal system or tropical cyclone, it indicates that weather conditions may soon deteriorate. While it indicates the arrival of rain, cirrus clouds only produce fall streaks (falling ice crystals that evaporate before landing on the ground). 100m to 8000m, with 1500m on average.[1]
Cirrus clouds
stratus Low-level clouds characterized by horizontal layering with a uniform base. They vary from dark gray to nearly white. Stratus clouds may produce a light drizzle or a small amount of snow. These clouds are essentially above-ground fog formed either through the lifting of morning fog or through cold air moving at low altitudes over a region. Less than 1000 meters[2][3]
cumulus Clouds which have flat bases and are often described as "puffy", "cotton-like" or "fluffy" in appearance. Cumulus clouds are often precursors of other types of clouds, such as cumulonimbus. Normally, cumulus clouds produce little or no precipitation. 600m to 2000m[4][5]
stratocumulus Clouds characterized by large dark, rounded masses, usually in groups, lines, or waves. They look much like cumulus clouds, except lumped together and bigger. Less than 1000 meters[6][7], of the order of 100m[8]
600px-Stratocumulus lenticularis 2
Nimbostratus A cloud with a diffuse cloud base. Although usually dark at its base, it often appears illuminated from within to a surface observer. Typical rain clouds. 2000m to 4000m[9]
cumulonimbus Dense, towering vertical clouds. They are the clouds that usually accompany heavy rain, storms and thunderstorms. Usually between 8000m to 11800m.[10] Sometimes as few as 2000m in polar air.[11]

Cloud Mass

In order to determine the cloud mass from its volume one simply has to multiply it with the clouds density. However, what a clouds density is can be defined in two different ways

  1. The density of the water in the cloud.
  2. The density of the water and air in the cloud together.

Which to use depends on which way the cloud was affected. Chemical changes, like vaporization or condensation of water use the first density, while movement changes like the creation of instabilities or changing the clouds position or shape use the second density.

The density of the water and air in the cloud together is approximately 1.003 kg/m3.

The density of just the water in the cloud is the liquid water content. The liquid water content depends on the cloud type. Following values can be used as orientation:

Cloud Type Liquid Water Content (g/m3)
cirrus 0.03
fog 0.05
stratus 0.25 to 0.3
cumulus 0.25 to 0.3
stratocumulus 0.45
Nimbostratus nearly 1[12]
cumulonimbus 1 to 3


In order to get the final result you need to find out which method was used to affect the clouds. There are 3 methods that are typical:

  1. Condensation, for creation, or vaporization, for destruction, of clouds. This should be used if clouds are created or destroyed, by condensing / vaporizing the water that makes up the cloud. If the cloud creation includes the creation of great amounts of natural winds, in other words storms, CAPE should be used instead.
  2. Kinetic Energy for moving of clouds. Should only be used if clouds are moved from one place to another.
  3. Convective available potential energy (CAPE) for creation of storms. Should be used if clouds are created together with a lot of wind. If the CAPE value is lower than the condensation value, use condensation instead.

If it can not be said, within reasonable certainty, which of the three methods applies to the created clouds all three can be calculated and the lowest result used.

Condensation / Vaporization

To calculate the energy necessary to create/destroy the clouds via condensation/vaporisation simply take the mass of the clouds (water mass, without air), in kilogram, and multiply it by the latent heat of vaporization for water, which is 2264705 J/kg. An even better result can be reached if one estimates the temperature and uses the formula here to get the latent heat of condensation for water in clouds and multiplies that with the mass of the clouds (in gram).

Kinetic Energy

To calculate the energy via kinetic energy one needs to additionally know the speed at which the clouds were moved. Since speed is distance over time, one needs to somehow figure out these two values. If that it done it can simply be calculated through the formula "kinetic energy = 0.5 * cloud mass * (Speed of cloud movement)2". The cloud mass is here the mass with the air.


See Standard Storm calculations.


See Also

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