Q:

How does precipitation form?

A:

Quick Answer

Precipitation forms when condensation inside clouds occurs at the level that the droplets become heavy enough to fall down to the Earth's surface. Rain, hail, freezing rain, snow and sleet are all types of precipitation that result from different conditions in the atmosphere.

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Full Answer

Rain develops from cloud droplets or ice crystals; if it starts as crystals, the rain first takes the form of snowflakes, but they melt when they enter warmer layers of air, changing into raindrops. In thunderstorms that have a central updraft capable of hosting both rain and snow, snowflakes fall, but the liquid water freezes together with them, making ice pellets that keep growing as they add more water droplets. The updraft then tosses many of the pellets back up, if it is strong enough, and then the pellets fall through again, adding more ice. The stronger the storm, the more times each pellet goes through the cycle, and the larger the hail stone grows.

When frozen raindrops make it all the way to the ground, the precipitation is known as sleet. Freezing rain is slightly different; it hits the ground as a liquid but almost immediately freezes when in contact with the ground or other cold surfaces. As surface temperatures keep going down, freezing rain and sleet become snow, which consists of those ice crystals falling all the way to the ground.

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Related Questions

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    What makes it rain?

    A:

    Rain and other forms of precipitation occur when water accumulates in the clouds and falls to the ground. This occurs due to the water cycle, which continually recycles the water on Earth.

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  • Q:

    How does convectional rainfall occur?

    A:

    Convectional rainfall occurs when the sun's heat causes water vapor at the Earth's surface to rise up into clouds. When the cloud is heavy enough, rain falls.

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    What is rainfall?

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    Rainfall is the result of water vapor condensing and precipitating, forming droplets that fall from clouds due to gravity. It is an important part of the water cycle.

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  • Q:

    What causes rain?

    A:

    Any time the droplets in clouds grow and come together to form drops that are large enough to create a speed of falling that is greater than the speed at which the cloud is blowing upward, then they head downward, and if they make it down without evaporating, people on the ground experience them as rain or snow. Sometimes rain evaporates again and heads back up into the clouds. The greater the amount of water vapor under the cloud and the stronger the winds on the updraft, the more likely precipitation becomes.

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