Here in Florida, the rainy season is about to begin. If you’re in the comfort of your home or workplace, the daily 4 p.m. shower is pure relief. If you get caught in the storm just seconds from your destination? Well, that’s another story. But what do really know about rain? (Other than it can screw up your afternoon commute?)
Herein, everything you ever wanted to know (or didn’t know you wanted to know) about rain:
1. Most raindrops never make it to the ground, at least not till the very end of their life cycle. Allow me to explain. Clouds are formed when a warm air mass meets a cold air mass. Usually, the warm air gets pushed up over the cold air. As the warm air rises, condensation occurs – meaning the air cools to a point where it will condense from its gas state into a water state. Because warm air rises, the rising air pulls the drop up, effectively catching it before it can fall down to Earth’s surface. This is called an updraft. And updraft may occur many times during a storm and all the while, more water is condensing onto the raindrop. This determines how heavy the raindrop is and if it eventually turns into something like hail. It finally falls to the ground when its density is heavier than the cloud from which it originated, or when the updraft dies out.
2. Not all raindrops are made of water. Even though Venus’ size is similar to that of planet Earth and it has gravity like we do, but the similarities end there. Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system, clocking in at 500 degrees Celsius. Venus is surrounded by clouds consisting of mercury, ferric chloride hydrocarbons and sulphuric acid which create the most corrosive acid rain found anywhere in our solar system.
3. If you want to stay drier, is it better to run out of the rain or walk? A MinutePhysics YouTube video settles the debate. This is because of a complicated formula that I cannot explain but this video can:
So next time you get caught in the rain, try running to the closest shelter. Or as my father-in-law suggests to my kids when it starts raining – just walk between the raindrops!
4. You can predict the amount of rainfall depending on the types of clouds you see, even without looking at the weather app on your phone. The two most common types of rain-producing clouds are nimbostratus clouds and cumulonimbus clouds. The nimbostratus clouds are dark, grey, and low. It’s a continuous rain cloud that means rain is imminent. Cumolonimbus clouds are thunderstorm clouds that usually take the shape of a mountain or tower, with a darkened bottom. These are the clouds that also produce hail and tornadoes.
5. Did you know that rain isn't shaped like a teardrop? Books, TV shows, and even the Weather Channel illustrate rain as a teardrop shape, but raindrops are spherical when they first take shape, and then they flatten out into more of a hamburger bun shape as they collide with other raindrops on their way to the ground.
There you have it, folks -- enough fun facts about rain to get you through an awkward moment spent under an awning with total strangers, waiting for that 4 p.m. shower to pass. Stay dry out there!
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