Precipitation


Rain and Hail liquid and ice precipitation. Rain develops when growing cloud droplets become too heavy to remain in the cloud and as a result, fall toward the surface as rain. Rain can also begin as ice crystals that collect each other to form large snowflakes. As the falling snow passes through the freezing level into warmer air, the flakes melt and collapse into rain drops. The picture below above heavy rain falling from a Texas thunderstorm

Precipitation is produced when the droplets and crystals in clouds grow large enough to fall to the ground. Clouds do not usually produce precipitation until they are more than 1 km (0.6 mi) thick. Precipitation takes a variety of forms, including rain, drizzle, freezing rain, snow, hail, and ice pellets, or sleet. Raindrops have diameters larger than 0.5 mm (0.02 in), whereas drizzle drops are smaller. Few raindrops are larger than about 6 mm (about 0.2 in), because such large drops are unstable and break up easily. Ice pellets are raindrops that have frozen in midair. Freezing rain is rain that freezes on contact with any surface. It often produces a layer of ice that can be very slippery.

Snowflakes are either single ice crystals or clusters of ice crystals. Large snowflakes generally form when the temperature is near 0° C (32° F), because at this temperature the flakes are partly melted and stick together when they collide. Hailstones are balls of ice about 6 to 150 mm (about 0.2 to 6 in) in diameter. They consist of clusters of raindrops that have collided and frozen together. Large hailstones only occur in violent thunderstorms, in which strong updrafts keep the hailstones suspended in the atmosphere long enough to grow large.

Precipitation amounts are usually given in terms of depth. A well-developed winter storm can produce 10 to 30 mm (0.4 to 1.2 in) of rain over a large area in 12 to 24 hours. An intense thunderstorm may produce more than 20 mm (0.8 in) of rain in 10 minutes and cause flash floods (floods in which the water rises suddenly). Hurricanes sometimes produce over 250 mm (10 in) of rain and lead to extensive flooding.

Snow depths are usually much greater than rain depths because of snow’s low density. During intense winter storms, more than 250 mm (10 in) of snow may fall in 24 hours, and the snow can be much deeper in places where the wind piles it up in drifts. Extraordinarily deep snows sometimes accumulate on the upwind side of mountain slopes during severe winter storms or on the downwind shores of large lakes during outbreaks of polar air.

References

Cited "Weather," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2004
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
"Rain and Hail," University of Illinois WW2010 Project
ww2010@atmos.uiuc.edu © 1997 by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. All Rights Reserved.