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A rain shaft at the base of a thunderstorm

Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to other kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail and sleet. On Earth, it is the condensation of atmospheric water vapor into drops of water heavy enough to fall, often making it to the surface. Two processes, possibly acting together, can lead to air becoming saturated leading to rainfall: cooling the air or adding water vapour to the air. Virga is precipitation that begins falling to the earth but evaporates before reaching the surface; it is one of the ways air can become saturated. Precipitation forms via collision with other rain drops or ice crystals within a cloud. Rain drops range in size from oblate, pancake-like shapes for larger drops, to small spheres for smaller drops. Unpolluted rainfall has a pH level of 5.2, making it slightly acidic.

Moisture overriding associated with weather fronts is an overall major method of rain production. If enough moisture and upward motion is present, precipitation falls from convective clouds such as cumulonimbus and can organize into narrow rainbands. In mountainous areas, heavy precipitation is possible where upslope flow is maximized within windward sides of the terrain at elevation. On the leeward side of mountains, desert climates can exist due to the dry air caused by compressional heating. The movement of the monsoon trough, or intertropical convergence zone, brings rainy seasons to savannah climes. Rain is the primary source of fresh water for most areas of the world, providing suitable conditions for diverse ecosystems, as well as water for hydroelectric power plants and crop irrigation. The METAR code for rain is RA. Rainfall is measured through the use of rain gages. Rainfall amounts are estimated actively by weather radar and passively by weather satellites.

Part of the Nature series on
Spring · Summer

Autumn · Winter

Dry season · Wet season


Thunderstorm · Tornado
Tropical cyclone (Hurricane)
Extratropical cyclone
Winter storm · Blizzard · Ice storm
Sandstorm · Firestorm  · Fog


Drizzle · Rain  · Snow · Graupel
Freezing rain · Ice pellets · Hail


Meteorology · Climate
Weather forecasting
Heat wave · Air pollution

Weather Portal

The urban heat island effect leads to increased rainfall, both in amounts and intensity, downwind of cities. Global warming is also causing changes in the precipitation pattern globally, including wetter conditions across eastern North America and drier conditions in the tropics. Precipitation is a major component of the water cycle, and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the planet. The globally-averaged annual precipitation is 990 millimetres (39 in). Climate classification systems such as the Köppen climate classification system use average annual rainfall to help differentiate between differing climate regimes. Australia is the Earth's driest continent. Rain is also known or suspected on other worlds. On Titan, Saturn's largest moon, infrequent methane rain is thought to carve the moon's numerous surface channels. On Venus, sulfuric acid virga evaporates 25 km from the surface. There is likely to be rain of various compositions in the upper atmospheres of the gas giants, as well as precipitation of liquid neon and helium in the deep atmospheres.


How air becomes saturated

Late-summer rainstorm in Denmark

Air contains water vapour, measured in grams of water per kilogram of dry air (g/kg),[1] but most commonly reported as a relative humidity. How much water vapour a parcel of air can contain before it becomes saturated (100% relative humidity) depends on its temperature. Warmer air can contain more water vapour than cooler air before becoming saturated. Therefore, one way to saturate a parcel of air is to cool it. The dew point is the temperature to which a parcel must be cooled in order to become saturated.[2] Water vapour normally begins to condense on condensation nuclei such as dust, ice, and salt in order to form clouds. An elevated portion of a frontal zone forces broad areas of lift, which form clouds decks such as altostratus or cirrostratus. Stratus is a stable cloud deck which tends to form when a cool, stable air mass is trapped underneath a warm air mass. It can also form due to the lifting of advection fog during breezy conditions.[3]

There are four main mechanisms for cooling the air to its dew point: adiabatic cooling, conductive cooling, radiational cooling, and evaporative cooling. Adiabatic cooling occurs when air rises and expands.[4] The air can rise due to convection, large-scale atmospheric motions, or a physical barrier such as a mountain (orographic lift). Conductive cooling occurs when the air comes into contact with a colder surface,[5] usually by being blown from one surface to another, for example from a liquid water surface to colder land. Radiational cooling occurs due to the emission of infrared radiation, either by the air or by the surface underneath.[6] Evaporative cooling occurs when moisture is added to the air through evaporation, which forces the air temperature to cool to its wet-bulb temperature, or until it reaches saturation.[7]

The main ways water vapour is added to the air are: wind convergence into areas of upward motion,[8] precipitation or virga falling from above,[9] daytime heating evaporating water from the surface of oceans, water bodies or wet land,[10] transpiration from plants,[11] cool or dry air moving over warmer water,[12] and lifting air over mountains.[13]


Raindrops are not tear-shaped. Very small raindrops are nearly spherical As raindrops increase in size, they become flattened at the bottom due to air resistance. The largest raindrops split into smaller raindrops due to air resistance.

Coalescence occurs when water droplets fuse to create larger water droplets, or when water droplets freeze onto an ice crystal, which is known as the Bergeron process. Air resistance typically causes the water droplets in a cloud to remain stationary. When air turbulence occurs, water droplets collide, producing larger droplets. As these larger water droplets descend, coalescence continues, so that drops become heavy enough to overcome air resistance and fall as rain. Coalescence generally happens most often in clouds above freezing, and is also known as the warm rain process.[14] In clouds below freezing, when ice crystals gain enough mass they begin to fall. This generally requires more mass than coalescence when occurring between the crystal and neighboring water droplets. This process is temperature dependent, as supercooled water droplets only exist in a cloud that is below freezing. In addition, because of the great temperature difference between cloud and ground level, these ice crystals may melt as they fall and become rain.[15]

Raindrops have sizes ranging from 0.1 millimetres (0.0039 in) to 9 millimetres (0.35 in) mean diameter, above which they tend to break up. Smaller drops are called cloud droplets, and their shape is spherical. As a raindrop increases in size, its shape becomes more oblate, with its largest cross-section facing the oncoming airflow. Large rain drops become increasingly flattened on the bottom, like hamburger buns; very large ones are shaped like parachutes.[16] Contrary to popular belief, their shape does not resemble a teardrop.[17] The biggest raindrops on Earth were recorded over Brazil and the Marshall Islands in 2004 — some of them were as large as 10 mm. The large size is explained by condensation on large smoke particles or by collisions between drops in small regions with particularly high content of liquid water.[18]

Intensity and duration of rainfall are usually inversely related, i.e., high intensity storms are likely to be of short duration and low intensity storms can have a long duration.[19][20] Rain drops associated with melting hail tend to be larger than other rain drops.[21] Raindrops impact at their terminal velocity, which is greater for larger drops due to their larger mass. At sea level and without wind, 0.5 mm drizzle impacts at about 2 m/s, while large 5 mm drops impact at around 9 m/s.[22] The sound of raindrops hitting water is caused by bubbles of air oscillating underwater. The METAR code for rain is RA, while the coding for rain showers is SHRA.[23]


Rainfall with low pH levels, or acid rain, is also a frequent risk produced by lightning within thunderstorms. Distilled water, which contains no carbon dioxide, has a neutral pH of 7. Liquids with a pH less than 7 are acidic, and those with a pH greater than 7 are bases. “Clean” or unpolluted rain has a slightly acidic pH of about 5.2, because carbon dioxide and water in the air react together to form carbonic acid, a weak acid (pH 5.6 in distilled water), but unpolluted rain also contains other chemicals.[24] Nitrous oxide present during thunderstorm phenomena,[25] caused by the splitting of nitrogen molecules, can result in the production of acid rain, if nitrous oxide forms compounds with the water molecules in precipitation, thus creating acid rain. Acid rain can damage buildings and other external structures. In ecosystems, acid rain can dissolve plant tissues of vegetation and increase acidification process in soil and bodies of water,[26] resulting in deaths of marine organisms.[27]


Frontal activity

Stratiform or dynamic precipitation occurs as a consequence of slow ascent of air in synoptic systems (on the order of cm/s), such as over surface cold fronts, and over and ahead of warm fronts. Similar ascent is seen around tropical cyclones outside of the eyewall, and in comma-head precipitation patterns around mid-latitude cyclones.[28] A wide variety of weather can be found along an occluded front, with thunderstorms possible, but usually their passage is associated with a drying of the air mass. Occluded fronts usually form around mature low-pressure areas.[29]


Convective precipitation

Convective rain, or showery precipitation, occurs from convective clouds, e.g., cumulonimbus or cumulus congestus. It falls as showers with rapidly changing intensity. Convective precipitation falls over a certain area for a relatively short time, as convective clouds have limited horizontal extent. Most precipitation in the tropics appears to be convective; however, it has been suggested that stratiform precipitation also occurs.[28][30] Graupel and hail indicate convection.[31] In mid-latitudes, convective precipitation is intermittent and often associated with baroclinic boundaries such as cold fronts, squall lines, and warm fronts.[32]

Orographic effects

Orographic precipitation

Orographic precipitation occurs on the windward side of mountains and is caused by the rising air motion of a large-scale flow of moist air across the mountain ridge, resulting in adiabatic cooling and condensation. In mountainous parts of the world subjected to relatively consistent winds (for example, the trade winds), a more moist climate usually prevails on the windward side of a mountain than on the leeward or downwind side. Moisture is removed by orographic lift, leaving drier air (see katabatic wind) on the descending and generally warming, leeward side where a rain shadow is observed.[13]

In Hawaii, Mount Waiʻaleʻale, on the island of Kauai, is notable for its extreme rainfall, as it has the second highest average annual rainfall on Earth, with 460 inches (12,000 mm).[33] Systems known as Kona storms affect the state with heavy rains between October and April.[34] Local climates vary considerably on each island due to their topography, divisible into windward (Koʻolau) and leeward (Kona) regions based upon location relative to the higher mountains. Windward sides face the east to northeast trade winds and receive much more rainfall; leeward sides are drier and sunnier, with less rain and less cloud cover.[35]

In South America, the Andes mountain range blocks Pacific moisture that arrives in that continent, resulting in a desertlike climate just downwind across western Argentina.[36] The Sierra Nevada range creates the same effect in North America forming the Great Basin and Mojave Deserts.[37][38]

Within the tropics

Rainfall distribution by month in Cairns showing the extent of the wet season at that location

The wet, or rainy, season is the time of year, covering one or more months, when most of the average annual rainfall in a region falls.[39] The term green season is also sometimes used as a euphemism by tourist authorities.[40] Areas with wet seasons are dispersed across portions of the tropics and subtropics.[41] Savanna climates and areas with monsoon regimes have wet summers and dry winters. Tropical rainforests technically do not have dry or wet seasons, since their rainfall is equally distributed through the year.[42] Some areas with pronounced rainy seasons will see a break in rainfall mid-season when the intertropical convergence zone or monsoon trough move poleward of their location during the middle of the warm season.[19] When the wet season occurs during the warm season, or summer, rain falls mainly during the late afternoon and early evening hours. The wet season is a time when air quality improves,[43] freshwater quality improves,[44][45] and vegetation grows significantly.

Tropical cyclones, a source of very heavy rainfall, consist of large air masses several hundred miles across with low pressure at the centre and with winds blowing inward towards the centre in either a clockwise direction (southern hemisphere) or counterclockwise (northern hemisphere).[46] Although cyclones can take an enormous toll in lives and personal property, they may be important factors in the precipitation regimes of places they impact, as they may bring much-needed precipitation to otherwise dry regions.[47] Areas in their path can receive a year's worth of rainfall from a tropical cyclone passage.[48]

Human influence

Image of Atlanta, Georgia showing temperature distribution, with blue showing cool temperatures, red warm, and hot areas appear white.

The fine particulate matter produced by car exhaust and other human sources of pollution forms cloud condensation nuclei, leads to the production of clouds and increases the likelihood of rain. As commuters and commercial traffic cause pollution to build up over the course of the week, the likelihood of rain increases: it peaks by Saturday, after five days of weekday pollution has been built up. In heavily populated areas that are near the coast, such as the United States' Eastern Seaboard, the effect can be dramatic: there is a 22% higher chance of rain on Saturdays than on Mondays.[49] The urban heat island effect warms cities 0.6 °C (1.1 °F) to 5.6 °C (10.1 °F) above surrounding suburbs and rural areas. This extra heat leads to greater upward motion, which can induce additional shower and thunderstorm activity. Rainfall rates downwind of cities are increased between 48% and 116%. Partly as a result of this warming, monthly rainfall is about 28% greater between 20 miles (32 km) to 40 miles (64 km) downwind of cities, compared with upwind.[50] Some cities induce a total precipitation increase of 51%.[51]

Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1999 to 2008 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980

Increasing temperatures tend to increase evaporation which leads to more precipitation. As average global temperatures have risen, average global precipitation has also increased. Precipitation generally increased over land north of 30°N from 1900 through 2005 but has declined over the tropics since the 1970s. Globally there has been no statistically significant overall trend in precipitation over the past century, although trends have varied widely by region and over time. Eastern portions of North and South America, northern Europe, and northern and central Asia have become wetter. The Sahel, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and parts of southern Asia have become drier. There has been an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events over many areas during the past century, as well as an increase since the 1970s in the prevalence of droughts—especially in the tropics and subtropics. Changes in precipitation and evaporation over the oceans are suggested by the decreased salinity of mid- and high-latitude waters (implying more precipitation), along with increased salinity in lower latitudes (implying less precipitation and/or more evaporation). Over the contiguous United States, total annual precipitation increased at an average rate of 6.1 percent per century since 1900, with the greatest increases within the East North Central climate region (11.6 percent per century) and the South (11.1 percent). Hawaii was the only region to show a decrease (-9.25 percent).[52]


Band of thunderstorms seen on a weather radar display

Rainbands are cloud and precipitation areas which are significantly elongated. Rainbands can be stratiform or convective,[53] and are generated by differences in temperature. When noted on weather radar imagery, this precipitation elongation is referred to as banded structure.[54] Rainbands in advance of warm occluded fronts and warm fronts are associated with weak upward motion,[55] and tend to be wide and stratiform in nature.[56]

Rainbands spawned near and ahead of cold fronts can be squall lines which are able to produce tornadoes.[57] Rainbands associated with cold fronts can be warped by mountain barriers perpendicular to the front's orientation due to the formation of a low-level barrier jet.[58] Bands of thunderstorms can form with sea breeze and land breeze boundaries, if enough moisture is present. If sea breeze rainbands become active enough just ahead of a cold front, they can mask the location of the cold front itself.[59] Banding within the comma head precipitation pattern of an extratropical cyclone can yield significant amounts of rain.[60] Behind extratropical cyclones, rainbands can form downwind of relative warm bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. Downwind of islands, bands of showers and thunderstorms can develop due to low level wind convergence downwind of the island edges. Offshore California, this has been noted in the wake of cold fronts.[61]

Rainbands within tropical cyclones are curved in orientation. Tropical cyclone rainbands contain showers and thunderstorms that, together with the eyewall and the eye, constitute a hurricane or tropical storm. The extent of rainbands around a tropical cyclone can help determine the cyclone's intensity.[62]



Standard rain gauge

The standard way of measuring rainfall or snowfall is the standard rain gauge, which can be found in 100-mm (4-in) plastic and 200-mm (8-in) metal varieties.[63] The inner cylinder is filled by 25 mm (1 in) of rain, with overflow flowing into the outer cylinder. Plastic gages have markings on the inner cylinder down to 0.25 mm (0.01 in) resolution, while metal gauges require use of a stick designed with the appropriate 0.25 mm (0.01 in) markings. After the inner cylinder is filled, the amount inside it is discarded, then filled with the remaining rainfall in the outer cylinder until all the fluid in the outer cylinder is gone, adding to the overall total until the outer cylinder is empty.[64] Other types of gauges include the popular wedge gauge (the cheapest rain gauge and most fragile), the tipping bucket rain gauge, and the weighing rain gauge.[65] For those looking to measure rainfall the most inexpensively, a can that is cylindrical with straight sides will act as a rain gauge if left out in the open, but its accuracy will depend on what ruler you use to measure the rain with. Any of the above rain gauges can be made at home, with enough know-how.[66]

When a precipitation measurement is made, various networks exist across the United States and elsewhere where rainfall measurements can be submitted through the Internet, such as CoCoRAHS or GLOBE.[67][68] If a network is not available in the area where one lives, the nearest local weather office will likely be interested in the measurement.[69]

Remote sensing

Twenty-four hour rainfall accumulation on the Val d'Irène radar in Eastern Canada. Zones without data in the east and southwest are caused by beam blocking from mountains. (Source: Environment Canada)

One of the main uses of weather radar is to be able to assess the amount of precipitations fallen over large basins for hydrological purposes.[70] For instance, river flood control, sewer management and dam construction are all areas where planners use rainfall accumulation data. Radar-derived rainfall estimates compliment surface station data which can be used for calibration. To produce radar accumulations, rain rates over a point are estimated by using the value of reflectivity data at individual grid points. A radar equation is then used, which is,

Z = ARb,

where Z represents the radar reflectivity, R represents the rainfall rate, and A and b are constants.[71] Satellite derived rainfall estimates use passive microwave instruments aboard polar orbiting as well as geostationary weather satellites to indirectly measure rainfall rates.[72] If one wants for a accumulate rainfall over a time period, one has to add up all the accumulations from each grid box within the images during that time.


Rainfall intensity is classified according to the rate of precipitation:

  • Light rain — when the precipitation rate is < 2.5 millimetres (0.098 in) per hour
  • Moderate rain — when the precipitation rate is between 2.5 millimetres (0.098 in) - 7.6 millimetres (0.30 in) per hour
  • Heavy rain — when the precipitation rate is > 7.6 millimetres (0.30 in) per hour[73]

Return period

The likelihood or probability of an event with a specified intensity and duration, is called the return period or frequency.[74] The intensity of a storm can be predicted for any return period and storm duration, from charts based on historic data for the location.[75] The term 1 in 10 year storm describes a rainfall event which is rare and is only likely to occur once every 10 years, so it has a 10 percent likelihood any given year. The rainfall will be greater and the flooding will be worse than the worst storm expected in any single year. The term 1 in 100 year storm describes a rainfall event which is extremely rare and which will occur with a likelihood of only once in a century, so has a 1 percent likelihood in any given year. The rainfall will be extreme and flooding to be worse than a 1 in 10 year event. As with all probability events, it is possible to have multiple "1 in 100 Year Storms" in a single year.[76]

Effect on agriculture

Rainfall estimates for southern Japan and the surrounding region from July 20–27, 2009.

Precipitation, especially rain, has a dramatic effect on agriculture. All plants need at least some water to survive, therefore rain (being the most effective means of watering) is important to agriculture. While a regular rain pattern is usually vital to healthy plants, too much or too little rainfall can be harmful, even devastating to crops. Drought can kill crops and increase erosion,[77] while overly wet weather can cause harmful fungus growth.[78] Plants need varying amounts of rainfall to survive. For example, certain cacti require small amounts of water,[79] while tropical plants may need up to hundreds of inches of rain per year to survive.

In areas with wet and dry seasons, soil nutrients diminish and erosion increases during the wet season.[19] Animals have adaptation and survival strategies for the wetter regime. The previous dry season leads to food shortages into the wet season, as the crops have yet to mature.[80] Developing countries have noted that their populations show seasonal weight fluctuations due to food shortages seen before the first harvest, which occurs late in the wet season.[81] Rain may be harvested through the use of rainwater tanks or for non-potable use indoors or for irrigation,[82] as a form of greywater. Excessive rain during short periods of time can cause flash floods.[83]


Cultural attitudes towards rain differ across the world. In temperate climates, people tend to be more stressed when the weather is unstable or cloudy, with its impact greater on men than women.[84] Rain can also bring joy, as some consider it to be soothing or enjoy the aesthetic appeal of it. In dry places, such as India,[85] or during periods of drought,[86] rain lifts people's moods. In Botswana, the Setswana word for rain, "pula," is used as the name of the national currency, in recognition of the economic importance of rain in this desert country.[87] Several cultures have developed means of dealing with rain and have developed numerous protection devices such as umbrellas and raincoats, and diversion devices such as gutters and storm drains that lead rains to sewers.[88] Many people find the scent during and immediately after rain pleasant or distinctive. The source of this scent is petrichor, an oil produced by plants, then absorbed by rocks and soil, and later released into the air during rainfall.[89]


Example of a five day rainfall forecast from the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center

The Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (abbreviated QPF) is the expected amount of liquid precipitation accumulated over a specified time period over a specified area.[90] A QPF will be specified when a measurable precipitation type reaching a minimum threshold is forecast for any hour during a QPF valid period. Precipitation forecasts tend to be bound by synoptic hours such as 0000, 0600, 1200 and 1800 GMT. Terrain is considered in QPFs by use of topography or based upon climatological precipitation patterns from observations with fine detail.[91] Starting in the mid to late 1990s, QPFs were used within hydrologic forecast models to simulate impact to rivers throughout the United States.[92] Forecast models show significant sensitivity to humidity levels within the planetary boundary layer, or in the lowest levels of the atmosphere, which decreases with height.[93] QPF can be generated on a quantitative, forecasting amounts, or a qualitative, forecasting the probability of a specific amount, basis.[94] Radar imagery forecasting techniques show higher skill than model forecasts within 6 to 7 hours of the time of the radar image. The forecasts can be verified through use of rain gage measurements, weather radar estimates, or a combination of both. Various skill scores can be determined to measure the value of the rainfall forecast.[95]

Role in Köppen climate classification

Updated Köppen-Geiger climate map[96]
     Af      Am      Aw      BWh      BWk      BSh      BSk      Csa      Csb      Cwa      Cwb      Cfa      Cfb      Cfc      Dsa      Dsb      Dsc      Dsd      Dwa      Dwb      Dwc      Dwd      Dfa      Dfb      Dfc      Dfd      ET      EF

The Köppen classification depends on average monthly values of temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used form of the Köppen classification has five primary types labeled A through E. Specifically, the primary types are A, tropical; B, dry; C, mild mid-latitude; D, cold mid-latitude; and E, polar. The five primary classifications can be further divided into secondary classifications such as rain forest, monsoon, tropical savanna, humid subtropical, humid continental, oceanic climate, Mediterranean climate, steppe, subarctic climate, tundra, polar ice cap, and desert.

Rain forests are characterized by high rainfall, with definitions setting minimum normal annual rainfall between 1,750 millimetres (69 in) and 2,000 millimetres (79 in).[97] A tropical savanna is a grassland biome located in semi-arid to semi-humid climate regions of subtropical and tropical latitudes, with rainfall between 750 millimetres (30 in) and 1,270 millimetres (50 in) a year. They are widespread on Africa, and are also found in India, the northern parts of South America, Malaysia, and Australia.[98] The humid subtropical climate zone where winter rainfall (and sometimes snowfall) is associated with large storms that the westerlies steer from west to east. Most summer rainfall occurs during thunderstorms and from occasional tropical cyclones.[99] Humid subtropical climates lie on the east side continents, roughly between latitudes 20° and 40° degrees away from the equator.[100]

An oceanic (or maritime) climate is typically found along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of all the world's continents, bordering cool oceans, as well as southeastern Australia, and is accompanied by plentiful precipitation year round.[101] The Mediterranean climate regime resembles the climate of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, parts of western North America, parts of Western and South Australia, in southwestern South Africa and in parts of central Chile. The climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters.[102] A steppe is a dry grassland.[103] Subarctic climates are cold with continuous permafrost and little precipitation.[104]

Global climatology

Approximately 505,000 cubic kilometres (121,000 cu mi) of water falls as precipitation each year across the globe with 398,000 cubic kilometres (95,000 cu mi) of it over the oceans.[105] Given the Earth's surface area, that means the globally-averaged annual precipitation is 990 millimetres (39 in). Deserts are defined as areas with an average annual precipitation of less than 250 millimetres (10 in) per year,[106][107] or as areas where more water is lost by evapotranspiration than falls as precipitation.[108]


Largest deserts

The northern half of Africa is primarily desert or arid, containing the Sahara. Across Asia, a large annual rainfall minimum, composed primarily of deserts, stretches from the Gobi desert in Mongolia west-southwest through Pakistan and Iran into the Arabian desert in Saudi Arabia. Most of Australia is semi-arid or desert,[109] making it the world's driest continent. In South America, the Andes mountain range blocks Pacific moisture that arrives in that continent, resulting in a desertlike climate just downwind across western Argentina.[36] The drier areas of the United States are regions where the Sonoran desert overspreads the Desert Southwest, the Great Basin, central Wyoming, and the Willamette Valley.[110]


The equatorial region near the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), or monsoon trough, is the wettest portion of the world's continents. Annually, the rain belt within the tropics marches northward by August, then moves back southward into the Southern Hemisphere by February and March.[111] Within Asia, rainfall is favored across its southern portion from India east and northeast across the Philippines and southern China into Japan due to the monsoon advecting moisture primarily from the Indian Ocean into the region.[112] The monsoon trough can reach as far north as the 40th parallel in East Asia during August before moving southward thereafter. Its poleward progression is accelerated by the onset of the summer monsoon which is characterized by the development of lower air pressure (a thermal low) over the warmest part of Asia.[113][114][115] Similar, but weaker, monsoon circulations are present over North America and Australia.[116][117] During the summer, the Southwest monsoon combined with Gulf of California and Gulf of Mexico moisture moving around the subtropical ridge in the Atlantic ocean bring the promise of afternoon and evening thunderstorms to the southern tier of the United States as well as the Great Plains.[118] The eastern half of the contiguous United States east of the 98th meridian, the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and the Sierra Nevada range are the wetter portions of the nation, with average rainfall exceeding 30 inches (760 mm) per year.[110] Equatorward of the subtropical ridge, tropical cyclones enhance precipitation across southern and eastern sections of the United States, as well as Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands,[119] the Northern Mariana Islands,[120] Guam, and American Samoa.

Impact of the Westerlies

Long-term mean precipitation by month

Westerly flow from the mild north Atlantic leads to wetness across western Europe, in particular the United Kingdom, where the western coasts can receive between 1000 mm (40 in, at sea-level) and 2500 mm (100 in, on the mountains) of rain per year. In Bergen, Norway is one of the more famous European rain-cities with its yearly precipitation of 2250 mm (88 in) on average. During the fall, winter, and spring, Pacific storm systems bring most of Hawaii and the western United States much of their precipitation.[118] Over the top of the ridge, the jet stream brings a summer precipitation maximum to the Great Lakes. Large thunderstorm areas known as mesoscale convective complexes move through the Plains, Midwest, and Great Lakes during the warm season, contributing up to 10% of the annual precipitation to the region.[121]

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation affects the precipitation distribution, by altering rainfall patterns across the western United States,[122] Midwest,[123][124] the Southeast,[125] and throughout the tropics. There is also evidence that global warming is leading to increased precipitation to the eastern portions of North America, while droughts are becoming more frequent in the tropics and subtropics.

Wettest known locations

Cherrapunji, situated on the southern slopes of the Eastern Himalaya in Shillong, India is one of the wettest places on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of 11,430 mm (450 in). The highest recorded rainfall in a single year was 22,987 mm (904.9 in) in 1861. The 38-year average at nearby Mawsynram, Meghalaya, India is 11,873 mm (467.4 in).[126] The wettest spot in Australia is Mount Bellenden Ker in the north-east of the country records an average of 8,000 millimetres (310 in) per year, with over 1,200 millimetres (47 in) of rain recorded in the year 2000.[127] Mount Waialeale on the island of Kauaʻi in the Hawaiian Islands averages more than 11,680 millimetres (460 in) of rain over the last 32 years, with a record 17,340 millimetres (683 in) in 1982. Its summit is considered one of the rainiest spots on earth. It has been promoted in tourist literature for many years as the wettest spot in the world.[128] Lloró, a town situated in Chocó, Colombia, is probably the place with the largest measured rainfall in the world, averaging 13,300 mm per year (523.6 in).[129] The Department of Chocó is extraordinarily humid. Tutunendo, a small town situated in the same department, is one of the wettest places on earth, averaging 11,394 mm per year (448 in); in 1974 the town received 26,303 mm (86 ft 3½ in), the largest annual rainfall measured in Colombia. Unlike Cherrapunji, which receives most of its rainfall between April and September, Tutunendo receives rain almost uniformly distributed throughout the year.[130] Quibdó, the capital of Chocó, receives the most rain in the world among cities with over 100,000 inhabitants: 9000 mm (29 ft 6 in) per year. Storms in Chocó can drop 500 mm (19.7 in) of rainfall in a day. This amount is more than falls in many cities in a year's time.

Outside of Earth

On Titan, Saturn's largest moon, infrequent methane rain is thought to carve the moon's numerous surface channels.[131 ] On Venus, sulfuric acid virga evaporates 25 km from the surface. There is likely to be rain of various compositions in the upper atmospheres of the gas giants, as well as precipitation of liquid neon and helium in the deep atmospheres.

See also


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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Flint and Feather by E. Pauline Johnson

From out the west, where darkling storm-clouds float,
The 'waking wind pipes soft its rising note.

From out the west, o'erhung with fringes grey,
The wind preludes with sighs its roundelay,

Then blowing, singing, piping, laughing loud,
It scurries on before the grey storm-cloud;

Across the hollow and along the hill
It whips and whirls among the maples, till

With boughs upbent, and green of leaves blown wide,
The silver shines upon their underside.

A gusty freshening of humid air,
With showers laden, and with fragrance rare;

And now a little sprinkle, with a dash
Of great cool drops that fall with sudden splash;

Then over field and hollow, grass and grain,
The loud, crisp whiteness of the nearing rain.

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