The Mysteries of Earth Science: Rain, Snow and Hail

Hailstones form in thunderclouds when several layers of ice build up on supercooled water droplets. Up to 25 layers have been recorded.

The Mysteries of Earth Science: Rain, Snow and Hail

By Mr Ghaz, October 22, 2010

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The Mysteries of Earth Science: Rain, Snow and Hail

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Core Facts

Rain, snow and hail occur when water droplets or ice crystals in a cloud grow large and heavy enough to fall to Earth.

The form in which moisture reaches the ground depends on the process of formation inside a cloud, and on the temperature between the cloud and the ground.

Frost and dew form from the condensation of moist air when it comes in contact with a colder surface, such as the ground, plants or windows.

In very cold conditions two types of freezing rain occur: ice pellets and glaze.

No two snowflakes are identical.

Rain, Snow and Hail

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If the air temperature inside a cloud is above freezing, water droplets merge and grow until they are heavy enough to fall, reaching the ground as rain.

If ice crystals are present in a cloud, they bond together until large enough to fall. While falling, they either remain frozen, reaching the ground as snow, or melt, reaching the ground as rain.

Hailstones form in thunderclouds when several layers of ice build up on supercooled water droplets. Up to 25 layers have been recorded.

Raining Sand and Frogs

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A number of accounts exist of creatures falling from the sky. In AD 77 the Roman historian Pliny described a shower of frogs. In 1859 a huge shower of fish fell in Glamorgan, Wales. In August 1918 in Hendon, Sunderland, it rained eels for 10 minutes. Such incidents were once regarded as portents or paranormal phenomena. It is now known that the strong updraughts, which can form in cumulonimbus clouds, tornadoes and waterspouts, occasionally pick up small creatures, or objects, carry them along and deposit them some distance away.

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Pouring Down: Heavy rain brings seasonal floods in Bangladesh

Weird and Wonderful

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Attempts have been made to produce rain by seeding clouds with silver iodide crystals. These form ideal condensation nuclei, attracting water droplets until they are large enough to fall as rain.

Frost

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Frost occurs when moist air comes into contact with a colder surface.

Air frost when the air temperature is 0 calcium (32F), or lower, as measured 1.2m (4ft) above the ground.

Fern frost Feathery patterns that form on the inside of cold glass when dew freezes.

Hoar frost Forms in damp air. The water vapour freezes directly onto a cold surface. The surface must be colder than the air and below freezing.

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Ground frost Hoar frost that forms on the ground or in the top layer of the soil and damages plants.

Rime a Crust of ice that forms when supercooled fog droplets freeze onto surface such as fences and trees. It can turn the whole landscape white.

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Frozen Forest: Hoar frost has coated the trunks of these fir trees during freezing conditions.

Freezing Rain

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When supercooled raindrops fall through freezing air they form tiny ice pellets (known as sleet in the USA). The difference between ice pellets and hail is that ice pellets form in any type of cloud whereas hail only form in thunderclouds.

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When supercooled raindrops fall on cold solid surface such as roads and trees they spread out and freeze, covering surface with a sheet of clear or ‘black’ ice, called glaze. A heavy downpour in these conditions is called an ice storm.

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Ice Sculptures: An ice storm has smothered everything in its path in thick layers of ice.

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Snowflake Shapes: Snowflakes consist of hexagonal or six-pointed ice crystals. In very cold air, several crystals may clump together to form flakes that are columnar or needle-shaped.

American farmer W.A. Bentely photographed thousands of flakes through a microscope but never found two that were indentical. But seven basic shapes have been identified.

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16 Responses to “The Mysteries of Earth Science: Rain, Snow and Hail”
  1. CA Johnson Says...

    On October 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    This was a very informative article about rain, snow, and hail. I liked the pics that you used for the article too. We had a bad hail storm here in New Jersey last week. Someone was able to make a small snowman out of the hail.


  2. GodsGrace Says...

    On October 22, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Nice Post


  3. wonder Says...

    On October 23, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Very educative and a great panoramic view.


  4. WindBlowerTM Says...

    On October 23, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Great post, it makes you think,
    Thank you for sharing.


  5. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On October 23, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Your descriptions are detailed and accompanied by beautiful pictures.


  6. albert1jemi Says...

    On October 23, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Great share thanks


  7. bryeunade Says...

    On October 23, 2010 at 10:19 am

    nice one


  8. sapphirelaws22 Says...

    On October 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Great share! I really like the pictures. :-)


  9. Mansor Says...

    On October 24, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Nice share as always. very interesting and well research article. good work! :)


  10. Idazalee Says...

    On October 24, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Cool entry. Nice pictures. very informative too. Thank you


  11. CHAN LEE PENG Says...

    On October 24, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Rain and snow are natural refreshing for earth. They add beauty to the nature.


  12. Christine Ramsay Says...

    On October 24, 2010 at 3:11 am

    The beauties of nature cannot be beaten. A stunning post.

    Christine


  13. papaleng Says...

    On October 26, 2010 at 12:50 am

    you always come out with fascinating photos. Love the article.


  14. sandcastle Says...

    On October 26, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Very vivid description and photos on the subject.Highly informative.


  15. BC Doan Says...

    On October 26, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Informative, and beautiful presentation! I really like your science series!


  16. revivor Says...

    On November 8, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    as always the pictures are outstanding


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