What’s Up Weather: How does rain form?

Weather

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Rain is an essential part of almost all ecosystems. Although rain doesn’t seem like anything special, it’s quite interesting to hear how this liquid precipitation forms.

It has a lot to do with the water cycle. As the sun heats the surface each day, water droplets from small puddles to large bodies of water begin to rise and evaporate, which transforms into water vapor.

In a stable atmosphere, warm moist air rises because it is less dense than surrounding air. As this water vapor rises, it condenses and cools, forming a cloud. With more and more water vapor forming in a cloud,  droplets begin to merge together and become larger. 

This is essentially when rain forms. Rain will eventually begin to fall out of the clouds once the droplets are heavy enough to defy gravity. Not all raindrops make it to the surface after falling through the air. If the air is too dry underneath the cloud, raindrops will once again begin to evaporate back into the atmosphere.

Now snow, on the other hand, will begin to fall when the air has lower temperatures below freezing. The final step of this water cycle is the rain making it to the surface. Some rain is caught by animals and plants. Eventually, this fallen water will make its way back to the stream, rivers, and other bodies of water. Then the process restarts from there. 

A funny misconception about rain is its shape. Most people believe that raindrops are shaped like a teardrop. That is how everyone told us to draw it growing up. Real raindrops are actually shaped like the top of a hamburger bun. This is because as the drop falls, air pushes up around it, creating that odd shape.

Now you know everything there is to know about silly rain.

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