The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.
To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories posted click: http://www.guyonclimate.com/category/worldofthermo/
Story 2. Playing with the Clouds
It was a beautiful bright sunny mid-summer’s day in the Great Plains of the United States. It was now the mid-1960s, and Thermo the Flying Thermometer was having a grand time playing with his cloud pals Puffy and Fluffy. Dr. Key had given Thermo permission to begin exploring the world.
“How do you fly through the air without jet engines?” asked Thermo, as he fired up his jets once again to stay aloft.
“We’re clouds!” shouted Puffy and his sister Fluffy together.
“We’re made of tiny water droplets suspended in the air,” said Fluffy.
“That’s right,” added Puffy. “We are known as fair weather cumulus clouds.”
“Wow,” observed Thermo, “you must not weigh very much if you can simply float around in the air.”
“Actually,” explained Fluffy, “we each weigh about as much as a hundred elephants.”
“What?” cried Thermo in disbelief. “If you weigh so much, how do you float?”
Puffy and Fluffy smiled at each other. “It’s really very simple,” Fluffy said. “Our water droplets are so tiny that the rising motion of the air keeps them suspended in the sky.”
“In fact,” added Puffy, putting on his best school teacher voice, “the air around us is actually heavier than we are, so we can climb very high into the sky.” And with that, He and Fluffy hitched a ride on an air current and darted away.
“Follow us, Thermo!” shouted Puffy, and off they went in search of adventure.
After floating over the Plains for a few miles, young Thermo looked up and spied Wispy, a handsome but delicate cloud with white curls. “Who are you?” asked Thermo.
“I’m Wispy, a cirrus cloud.”
“You don’t look like my friends Puffy and Fluffy,” Thermo observed. “You’re much thinner, and so high!”
“About thirty thousand feet high,” bragged Wispy, “I’m a cirrus cloud.” Then turning his attention to Puffy and Fluffy below, he taunted them. “Hey little clouds, come up here. I bet you can’t fly this high!”
Puffy, who never could turn down a dare, told Thermo and Fluffy, “Ha, I’ll show that little wisp of a cloud that he has nothing on me!”
Alarmed, Fluffy yelled up to her brother, who was now flying even higher, “You have never been that far off the ground before! Come back down and just ignore that Wispy cloud!”
Thermo was also becoming concerned. “Puffy, I don’t know what will happen to you if you get as high as Wispy,” he called. “We’ve never tested how high we can fly.”
Puffy ignored his sister and Thermo, and began to rise ever higher. But suddenly, his mood began to change. He felt sadder and sadder and began to darken. He also began to grow bigger and feel bloated. As Fluffy and Thermo watched nervously, Puffy began to shed tears of rain.
“Oh no!” cried Thermo. “You are turning into those dark clouds we’ve often seen in the distance. What are they called?”
“Thunderstorms!” cried Fluffy. “Oh, please come down, Puffy!”
Wispy waited in anticipation, knowing exactly what was happening. Puffy was changing from a fair-weather cumulus cloud into a cumulonimbus, a deep, tall, dark thunderstorm cloud. Soon, Puffy would become electrified, and lightning bolts would crash inside him, through him, and fly out from him.
Swiftly, Thermo was in action. With a quick blast from his jets, Thermo propelled himself high into the sky above his poor fattening friend. Then pointing his engines downward, he blew a warm wind onto Puffy from above. Immediately Puffy stopped rising.
Fluffy was surprised, but overjoyed. “Thermo! You made a cap over Puffy!”
“I did?” Thermo was even more surprised than Fluffy.
“Yes!” shouted Fluffy excitedly. “The cold air above was making Puffy rise higher and higher and turning him more angry and unstable. But the hot air from your jets put a cap of warm air on him, so he couldn’t rise or grow anymore.”
As the two watched, Puffy slowly decreased in size and rejoined his friends.
“Thanks, Thermo,” said Puffy. “You saved me from exploding into a severe thunderstorm.”
Annoyed, Wispy watched from above. “Rats,” he grumbled to himself, “I was hoping to make more cirrus clouds like myself at the top of that storm. Guess I’ll have to try my tricks somewhere else.” And with that, Wispy caught a jet stream wind current and was gone.
In the real world, the weight of the average cumulus cloud is just over one million pounds. Its weight is spread out into millions of tiny water droplets, and rising air currents keep the droplets floating in the air. Cumulus clouds can easily blossom into thunderstorms provided there is enough moisture and upward motion in the atmosphere. What is termed a “cap” in the Plains is caused by warm air aloft preventing the rising motion of the air, which inhibits thunderstorm development, even in a moist environment. When thunderstorms do form and mature, anvil-shaped formations made of cirrus clouds develop at the top of the storms. When the storms dissipate, those cirrus clouds are often all that remain of the storms.