WeatherTalk: With raindrops, size matters

Most raindrops have a diameter between half a millimeter and four millimeters.

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FARGO — We have all been told since childhood that no two snowflakes are alike (Actually there is a relatively small number of basic snow crystal patterns.), but have you ever thought about differences between raindrops? Some are large and some are small. Smaller than about half a millimeter in diameter, water droplets either remain suspended in the air as mist or fall slowly and noiselessly to the ground as drizzle. Raindrops approaching about four millimeters in diameter are broken up by air resistance on their way down. This leaves most raindrops with a diameter between half a millimeter and four millimeters.

The largest raindrops are in thunderstorms with strong updrafts which can keep the drops elevated longer, allowing them to keep growing. Oh, and we have also been told since childhood that raindrops are tear-shaped. They are not. Surface tension causes falling raindrops to maintain an almost spherical shape. Research has revealed that raindrops are disappointingly round.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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