Different types of precipitation and how they form

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When it comes to precipitation, rain must be the first thing coming to your mind, right? But do you know that along with rain, there are still several other types of precipitation? Check out today’s article “Different types of precipitation and how they form” to know more now!

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Do you know that together with rain, precipitation can also take several other forms? 

We all know that together with temperature, wind, humidity, etc, precipitation is also one of the major elements of weather that meteorologists use to measure and forecast weather. 

Precipitation is any type of water forming in the Earth’s atmosphere then dropping onto the Earth’s surface. So, not only rain but snow, hail, and several others are also types of precipitation. Keep reading on to learn about different types of precipitation and how they form! But first, it’s best to see what precipitation really is. Let’s do it right now!

A few basic things to know about precipitation

As mentioned earlier in the introduction, precipitation is water in all its form that falls on the Earth’s surface as a result of gravity. 

It doesn’t matter which form it takes, well, once water particles grow and then become too heavy to stay suspended in the air, it starts falling to the ground due to the force of gravity.

Precipitation can take various forms, including rain, hail, snow, graupel, and others. And we are about to learn about major different types of precipitation and how they form in the next part of this writing later on.

About how precipitation forms, it’s primarily the result of evaporation and condensation. Without them, it won’t be possible for any type of precipitation to form at all. 

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Precipitation is water in all its form that falls on the Earth’s surface as a result of gravity

Of course, precipitation is part of the water cycle on Earth. It falls to the Earth’s surface as snow, rain, or other forms, then eventually evaporates and rises back into the air as a gas. In clouds, it turns back to solid or liquid water and then falls to the ground again. 

Now, let’s move on to the next part of this post to learn about different types of precipitation and how they form.

See also: Forecast weather: Elements of weather and instruments measuring them

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Precipitation can take several different forms. Certain types of precipitation are associated with summer weather, some are associated with winter weather, while others are not necessarily seasonal-relative.

In fact, the type or the form that precipitation takes when it falls to the ground depends on the temperature of the air in the clouds and the air at ground level as well. Here are several different types of precipitation and how they form, in which rain, hail, and snow are the most common ones. 

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Rain can occur in all seasons, mainly depending on the temperature not only in the clouds but also in the atmosphere, and at the ground level

Rain

It’s no doubt that rain is the most common form of precipitation that consists of water droplets falling to the Earth's surface when they are heavy enough in the clouds. 

Meteorologists use various terms to describe rain droplets. Drizzle is light steady rain, while sprinkles are rain droplets that fall in the form of fine drops and usually fall for short periods of time, for instance.

This type of precipitation occurs in all seasons, mainly depending on the temperature not only in the clouds but also in the atmosphere, and at the ground level. About freezing rain, it occurs when water droplets pass through a layer of cold air before they hit the ground and freeze upon contact.

All types of precipitation, including rain, form mainly from 2 types of clouds: cumulonimbus and nimbostratus. Cumulonimbus clouds are low lying clouds that consist of thick puffy columns climbing into the atmosphere. On the other hand, nimbostratus clouds are the mid, dark clouds. While nimbostratus clouds create gray, rainy days, or light snow, cumulonimbus clouds bring intense, short bursts of rain, or heavy snowfall, hail, and even tornados as well.

See also: How to protect your shoes in wet weather?

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Different types of precipitation of how they form: Snow forms when the temperature in the cloud levels is below freezing

Snow

Unlike rain, snow is precipitation falling in the form of ice crystals. Water vapor freezes into ice crystals in the clouds and falls to the Earth’s surface in flakes once the ice crystals become too heavy to stay suspended.

Snow forms when the temperature in the cloud levels is below freezing - less than -32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 degrees Celsius). If temperatures on the ground are above freezing, snow will occur, but will also melt so quickly when it hits the ground. There’s no lower limit in terms of the temperature that this type of precipitation can develop in. But, warmer air contains more moisture, which can create heavier snowfalls.

Snow has a complex structure. Though the ice crystals are individually formed in clouds, they stick together in clusters of beautiful snowflakes when falling.

Depending on the humidity and temperature of the air, snowflakes develop different patterns. If snow falls down in the form of a ball (not soft flakes), it’s called graupel. Next, let’s learn about sleet and hail, 2 other different types of precipitation and how they form as well.

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Sleet is a form of precipitation that consists of ice pellets, often mixed with snow or rain 

Sleet

Sleet probably is one of the most unpleasant kinds of weather to be out in. It is a form of precipitation that consists of ice pellets, often mixed with snow or rain. 

Sleet occurs when melted snow or rain hits a cool pocket of air above ground level. The liquid water freezes into tiny ice pellets, which collide with the ground. Fortunately, sleet is usually so light and bounces off of the Earth’s surface, and it rarely does damage to crops and structures like the way hail, ice, or heavy snow can.

 

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Different types of precipitation and how they form: Hail is generally associated with summer weather conditions and thunderstorms

Hail 

Hail is also a common type of precipitation. Hail is generally associated with summer weather conditions and thunderstorms. It is opposite to sleet as this type of precipitation is more likely to fall during winter-like weather. 

Hail is ice and hailstones are collections of frozen water droplets. In fact, hail forms in cold storm clouds when very cold water droplets freeze as soon as they touch things like dirt or dust. When the storm blows the hailstones into the higher part of the clouds, they are added to more frozen water droplets before they fall.

Unlike sleet, which is in the form of liquid when it forms and freezes as it falls to the ground, hail falls as the stone of solid ice.

Usually, hailstones are the size of small rocks. However, they can also get as large as 6 inches (15 centimeters) across and even weigh more than a pound.

Different types of precipitation and how they form

Virga clouds (Image source: Met Office)

Other types of precipitation

Together with major types of precipitation of rain, snow, hail, and sleet as mentioned recently, precipitation can also take other forms like freezing rain, fog drip, and more. 

Sometimes, different forms of precipitation occur at a time. Or in other words, they fall at the same time. For example, during harsh winter storms, it isn’t unusual for rain and sleet to fall at the same time. 

Well, when it comes to different types of precipitation and how they form, it’s necessary to note that there are also times that precipitation does not fall at all. Have you ever heard about Virga? Well, virga is a type of precipitation that also, of course, begins to fall from a cloud, but it evaporates before reaching the surface of the Earth.

Roundup

Here are different types of precipitation that we want to introduce to you in this article. As you can see, precipitation can take several forms such as rain, snow, hail, sleet, graupel, and others, depending on the temperature in the clouds, in the atmosphere, and at the ground level as well. And that’s all for today’s post “Different types of precipitation and how they form.” Hope you enjoyed the article and found the information that it provided informative and helpful.

See also: Practical photography in rainy weather tips 

Sources:

nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/types-precipitation

sciencing.com/kinds-precipitation-8527799.html

study.com/academy/lesson/precipitation-types-formation.html