Among curious people, clouds seem puzzling.

Evidently, they do not consist of liquid water, for if you were to climb to the height of the cloud carrying a pitcher of water, that water would dump like a waterfall. Nor could it consist of water vapor, for the water falling from the cloud comes in distinct droplets.

So, how can we envision the contents of a cloud?

Cloud components

Since the water emerging from the cloud comes in droplets, simplest is to envision the cloud contents as an array of tiny droplets. The question then arises: what keeps those droplets apart from one another? Why don’t they coalesce to form a liquid, as droplets tend to do?

In my latest book, I describe the character of the droplet. Droplets have a core of liquid water, surrounded by a layered envelope of EZ water. Those droplets ordinarily bear net negative charge. So they tend to repel one another.

Repelling droplets would not be expected to draw together to form a cloud. They should ordinarily disperse.

Rescue comes from the principle formulated by the great Nobel physicist Richard Feynman. He calls it “like-likes-like.” Translation: two objects with like-charge “like” each other; hence they approach one another.

This is how it happens. If a positive charges lie in between two negative charges, the positives will draw together the two negatives. At the same time, the two negatives repel one another. When repulsion equals attraction, stability is achieved. Everything remains in place.

The same principle applies in three dimensions.

In this way, negatively charged droplets can form a three-dimensional array. All that’s required are positively charged protons (or hydronium ions – protonated water molecules) to fix those negatively charged droplets in place. Droplets, held in place by hydronium ions, define the cloud.

Of course, clouds come in many different forms. You can imagine how the form might depend on the droplets’ size and charge, as well as the number of hydronium ions.

Those constituents all come from evaporation. Droplets generally rise from warm water, or water exposed to infrared radiation. Hydronium ions rise from the pressure exerted by positively charged hydronium ions inside the water. Only when both are locally present in the atmosphere can clouds form. The mixture creates the cloud.


What turns on the rain?

Dark grey clouds may loom above, but no fundamental understanding exists as to why those clouds sometimes release a torrent of rain while other times hold their water.

The underlying principle may be “induction.” The principle is well known, and is sometimes referred to as “Faraday Induction,” after the renowned Scottish physicist Michael Faraday. When an isolated charge approaches an object, that object’s near surface becomes oppositely charged. The two then attract one another.

How does induction create rain?

Ordinarily, the cloud bears net negative charge. Negativity prevails because the negative charges in the EZ shell exceed the positive hydronium ions. Clouds with relatively high negativity will repel the earth more strongly than those with less negativity; hence, they will sit higher in the atmosphere.

Clouds acquiring additional positive charge will repel the earth less strongly, and will therefore descend. That’s where induction comes into play. Clouds always induce opposite charge below (Figure 4). When descending sufficiently, the impact becomes greater. Although the earth overall is negatively charged, the zone immediately below the cloud will contain positive charge, a feature that’s widely confirmed.

That induced positive earth charge will attract the cloud’s negative charge. If the resulting force is sufficiently strong, the earth will begin pulling constituent droplets downward. That’s called rain.

So, the deciding factor as to whether it rains or fails to rain depends on what’s inside the cloud. The more the cloud’s negative charge is compromised by positive charge, the lower it will get. The lower it gets, the more profound the induction, and if the inductive force grows strong enough it will pull down droplets of water from the cloud’s bottom. That’s rainfall.

The induction principle implies that rain doesn’t simply fall like a ball. It’s pulled, by the earth’s locally opposite charge. Measured velocities could therefore exceed the expected free-fall velocities, and measurements have confirmed that they can, by up to ten times. We can understand pounding rain.

We can also understand why, in general, it’s the low clouds that produce rain, not the higher clouds. Only when a cloud is low enough does induction come into play.

One wonders whether Michael Faraday understood that one of his premier principles could help him decide whether to carry an umbrella.