YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – This might be one of the more interesting headlines you have ever read, but I promise you that I am headed somewhere with this. There is more rain in the forecast Sunday and many of you will wake up to a wet start.
Have you ever wondered about the shape of a raindrop? Saturday, I will talk about different raindrop shapes and how they might leave you with the thought of hamburgers at the end.
How do raindrops form?
First, it is important to understand how raindrops form in the first place. Obviously, the first step is to have cloud formation. This is achieved when water vapor is forced vertically. The water vapor cools as it rises in the atmosphere and eventually reaches a temperature where it begins to change into liquid. This is called condensation.
You can see a brief explainer video of cloud formation below:
The process of a cloud droplet forming into a rain droplet can occur in a couple of ways. One way is for ice crystals/snowflakes/hail to fall into air that is above freezing, which melts the ice into water.
However, the most efficient process of raindrop formation is the process of collision-coalescence. Now, it should be noted that this is technically still a theory, but it is widely accepted in the scientific community.
When cloud droplets form, there are many different sizes. The updrafts/downdrafts within clouds cause the droplets to move around and collide with each other. The bigger cloud droplets will ingest the smaller droplets to form raindrops. This occurs numerous times within clouds and some of the bigger drops can even break up into smaller drops when they become too large.
Raindrops and hamburgers: How are they related?
Now, the moment you have all been waiting for. Eventually, raindrops become so large they they can no longer be suspended by cloud updrafts. The raindrops then starting falling toward the surface of the Earth.
When the raindrops begin to fall, the drag caused by the atmosphere causes the droplets to change shapes. If the drops are large enough, then they become flat on the bottom and stay rounded on top.
This makes the raindrops appear to look like hamburger buns!
Raindrops can also grow in size as they are falling which can lead to droplet breakup. Below is an explainer graphic showing the process of falling raindrops:
Now, the next time it rains you can inform your friends of this interesting factoid over a hamburger!