WeatherWeather Science


The rain falling on your head isn't the shape you think it is

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jul 10, 2024

Growing up as kids, when we were asked to draw a rain drop we think of that classic tear drop shape. We never wondered how accurate that actually was. Raindrops are in fact not tear drop shaped.

When we think of the tears that fall from our eyes, its easy to imagine the same shape for a raindrop. As rain falls from the clouds, the airflow is hitting the droplet on the bottom and flattens it out. This air flow is not hitting the raindrop on top as much, so it becomes more rounded on the top. The actual shape is more similar to a hamburger bun.

Raindrops can also vary in size. The size of a raindrop is dependent on how much water vapor is in the atmosphere, as well as the strength of the updrafts within the shower. Droplets that start off smaller, around .08", can relatively keep their spherical shape. Once they get bigger, around .25", the air will alter the shape more easily.

When the droplets fall, the air will flatten out the droplets enough to split them apart. They can also run into other droplets to create a bigger one.

Next time you need to draw a raindrop, you know now to draw them as a hamburger bun rather than a tear drop shape.


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