Clouds give a fantastic atmosphere and incredible views to a skydiver. Seeing some small, soft white clouds as you skydive is a breathtaking vision of beauty. But what happens when you skydive through a cloud? Can you get hurt? How dangerous is it? Are you going to get very wet?

I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about the need for clear blue skies to skydive. But sometimes, you see a few harmless fluffy clouds which look like they won’t cause any danger. After all, how harmless can a friendly-looking cloud be? Everyone has dreamt of reaching out and touching the clouds. So is it sometimes OK to dive through certain clouds?

Let’s take a look at the rules and advise on skydiving through clouds. We will also talk about the sensations of falling through a cloud and what conditions make for a dangerous skydive.

Does skydiving through clouds hurt?

hurt teddy bear
Even droplets of rain can sting your face at freefall speeds

There are ten main classes of cloud, and their height and shape can identify them. 

High clouds stretch from 16,000 feet to above 40,000 feet. These clouds are not usually related to the weather conditions and are well above the average skydiving altitudes. Middle clouds are those at around 7,000 feet to 20,000 feet. They can consist of tiny crystals of ice and water droplets. And the clouds at 7,000 feet and below are called low clouds. 

The friendly-looking white clouds you see at low altitudes are usually cumulus clouds. These are the fluffy white clouds you see on a sunny day, and they rarely threaten any rain. Passing through a small cumulus cloud, you probably won’t feel a thing, and you will pass through in a second. One thing you will feel is your speed. Passing through or close to a cloud can give you a much clearer idea of just how fast you are falling.

But not all clouds a fluffy white and friendly. Most clouds will hold a lot of water and crystallized ice. Passing through a cloud filled with lots of small pieces of ice at 120 MPH is something you will feel! Even droplets of rain can sting your face at that speed, and it will feel like someone is throwing sand or rice at your face, pretty hard. If this happens, you will want to shield your face or even turn away.

Would you get wet if you fell through a cloud?

people in rain
When you are passing through a cloud, you are passing through millions of tiny water droplets

Clouds are produced by water, formed through convection. Air at surface level and low altitudes heats up and rises. As it rises, it also begins to cool and produce water vapor. When there is too much water vapor in the air, it forms a cloud. So when you are passing through a cloud, you are passing through millions of tiny water droplets. Even a cloud that won’t produce rain still holds water, but the water vapors are smaller.

The type of cloud and how long you spend in it will determine just how wet you will get. Passing through a very small white cumulus may only last 1-2 seconds, and you might not feel wet at all. Passing through a larger cloud could make you feel a little damp, and your goggles may get covered in moisture, or you could get totally soaked! You may not feel like you are getting wet in some clouds and feel a slight tickle from the tiny water vapors, but once you exit the cloud, you discover you’re drenching wet.

A unique phenomenon sometimes forms on the top of clouds called a ‘glory.’ This is when the sun casts your shadow over a cloud you are falling towards and creates a rainbow pattern around it. It’s rare but stunning to see when it occurs. Sadly the rainbow disappears before you reach the cloud – so no chance of finding and gold here.

Is it illegal to skydive through clouds?

legal
Is it illegal to skydive through clouds?

USPA and FAA make it clear in their fuels that skydivers should not pass through clouds. The official rule is FAA regulation 105.17, which states: 

No person may conduct a parachute operation, and no pilot in command of an aircraft may allow a parachute operation to be conducted from that aircraft:

(a) into or through a cloud, or

(b) when the flight visibility or the distance from any cloud is less than that prescribed. 

This rule is also covered by Visual Flight Rules (VFR). These rules permit U.S. pilots from flying without clear visibility of the grounds and the skies around them. Skydivers are bound by these same rules. Even if you were able to get to altitude, it would still be illegal because the clouds would be obstructing your vision of the ground and other objects, as you passed through them.

What happens occasionally is that low cloud forms as you begin your skydive. And on occasions, special allowance is given to certain skydivers and performers. Some professionals can get permission from the FAA to skydive or fly through cloudy skies, but it’s not something your average pilot or skydiver would be granted. The rules forbidding skydivers to dive through cloudy weather are there to protect your safety and keep you out of danger.

Is it dangerous to skydive through a cloud?

tall buildings and clouds
Skydiving through a thick cloud can be very scary and extremely dangerous

While it may look fun, skydiving through a thick cloud can be very scary and extremely dangerous. What really happens as you skydive through the cloud is you lose your sense of direction and all visibility. If you are skydiving with others, you will lose track of where they and the aircraft are. You’ll often have no idea how deep the cloud is or what’s on the other side. Diving through a big, thick cloud can be a frightening experience.

If you enter a thick cloud near the point you want to deploy your parachute, it can cause a lot of stress and danger. You can quickly start to lose track of your altitude and panic when the cloud takes longer than anticipated to pass through. Pulling your parachute inside a cloud can also be dangerous, especially if you are not skydiving alone. Skydivers falling above or close to you won’t see you deploy, and you risk having a mid-air collision.

If you are in a tight group and you all enter a cloud, no one will be safe opening their parachute until everyone has exited. Once you have exited, everyone will need to get clear and ensure they are safe before deploying their chute. In such circumstances, this can lead skydivers deploying much lower than they are comfortable with. 

What conditions can you not skydive?

fog in distance

Fog can quickly cancel a skydive

So now you know what happens when you skydive through the cloud and doesn’t sound much fun. The fact it can hurt, you’ll probably get wet, and it’s hazardous, makes sense that you should avoid it. So what are the types of conditions you should avoid when skydiving?

While temperature is less important (you can skydive in the cold of winter), clear blue skies are crucial. Cloud and rain are the first things to postpone or cancel skydiving. For all the reasons above and many more, skydiving is a strict no-no when it’s stormy or cloudy. Not only is it illegal, and the VFR forbids pilots from taking you into the sky, it wouldn’t be fun anyway. Why would you want to soar through the skies at 120 MPH like superman but not be able to see the world around you?

Equally, ground fog can halt a skydive. A thick foggy morning means delays to your skydiving, which makes sense. But why cancel when the fog is very light? Well, although it may seem harmless at ground level, it’s different when floating above. You could have a visibility of 100 meters and see across the other side of the airfield, but from above, that could mean not seeing the tops of buildings and trees. Fortunately, most fog tends to clear fast, so it usually means being patient and waiting it out.

Strong wind can be another condition in which you can’t skydive. On very windy days, it can play havoc with parachutes. Strong winds can quickly take parachutes off course or even ascend backward as you get close to the ground. Up in the skies, it can cause a lot of unwanted turbulence, which can be incredibly stressful for new and first-time skydivers.