Recent observations of cumulus clouds strongly support the hypothesis of Squires (1958) that much of the mixing within such clouds is associated with downward propagating currents initiated near their tops. A similarity theory is here proposed to describe the properties of such currents; the use of similarity is defended on the basis of the observed and predicted scale of the downdrafts. The theory suggests that downward-propagating unsaturated thermals are pervasive throughout all but the largest convective clouds and that quasi-steady unsaturated downdraft plumes may exist in the lower portions of cumulonimbi. In addition to providing a reasonable explanation for the microstructure of and liquid water distribution within cumulus clouds, the theory appears to account for certain severe convective phenomena, including down-bursts. A new but related cloud instability is proposed to account for the occurrence of mamma.

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