English Listening Lesson

Listening level: 4
Audio file: 2:23 min
Story length: 306 words


Here is the listening file for this lesson.



Look up at the sky and you might see clouds. Some look like strange animals or pieces of unusual art. Others are long lines that stretch across the sky. Some are black and move fast. With all that action taking place up there, we might ask, what is a cloud?

A cloud is a group of water drops. Sometimes, there are tiny bits of ice, too. A drop is a small amount of water mixed with a bit of pollution in the air. When billions of drops stick together, they form a cloud.

There are four main categories of clouds. The highest ones are called cirrus. They look like white feathers.

Alto clouds are in the middle of the sky. They look like a white or gray blanket. Alto clouds usually block a lot of sunshine.

There are two major types of low clouds. The large gray ones that fill the sky are stratus clouds. Occasionally, they bring rain or snow. Cumulus clouds generate unique shapes.

The fourth kind of cloud is nimbostratus. They are gray or black and bring powerful showers.

Why do clouds look white or gray?

Cloud color depends on a couple of factors: light and water drops. Light from the sun has seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

When light comes in contact with water drops, all seven colors are mixed. The mixed colors look white to the human eye. White light leaves the bottom of the cloud. That is why clouds look white. Our eyes see the white light.

Some clouds are gray or black. When many drops form a cloud, it becomes thick. Thick clouds block light, which means less light travels to the bottom. That means the bottom of the cloud looks dark. Thick clouds also mean rain is coming soon.

Next time you go outside, look up and try to understand what’s happening in the sky.

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