Where it rains sulphuric acid, why some raindrops never touch the ground and many more facts about that wet stuff falling from the sky.
1. The least rainy place on Earth is not a desert.
It may be covered with ice, but in Antarctica, only about 165mm of rain or snow falls per year, which makes this continent have by far the least rainfall per year. The other extreme can be found in Lloró, Colombia, where more than 13,300mm of precipitation falls annually. In comparison, North America is relatively dry with an average of 6500mm of precipitation per year.
2. Rain does not always provide wet soil.
Some places are so dry and hot that the rain evaporates before it has a chance to hit the ground. Environmental activist and writer, Edward Abbey, describes this ‘phantom rain’ in the following way: “You see rain curtains dangle in the air, while the living creatures underneath are languishing due to a lack of water. Torture by temptation, hope without fulfillment. Then the clouds disappear into nothingness.”
3. Not all raindrops consist of water.
On Venus and other moons and planets, rain consists of sulphuric acid or methane. It can be even stranger: on a planet 5,000 light-years away, scientists discovered raindrops of iron, instead of water.
4. There is a scientifically proven method to get less wet in the rain.
Run! Henry Reich, the brain behind the YouTube channel, Minute Physics, explains: “The faster you get out of the rain, the drier you’ll be, no matter what extra raindrops you run into.”
5. The shape and color of clouds can help predict rain.
In general, if you see a cumulonimbus cloud (a high, convex cloud with a flattened top) or a nimbostratus cloud (a flat, low hanging grey cloud), you can be pretty sure that rain will fall within 24 hours.
6. There is a reason why you like the smell of rain.
Water doesn’t smell like anything, so how come rainfall does have a pleasant smell? This smell is caused by the molecule geosmine, an organic compound produced by certain bacteria in the soil. After rainfall, geosmine is released into the air and can be detected by the human olfactory organ. The smell of rain even has a name: ‘petrichor’. In Ancient Greek, this term means ‘blood of the stones’.
7. Raindrops have no drop shape.
The designation ‘raindrop’ is actually incorrect, since scientists have concluded that raindrops are not tears. When water molecules condense in the atmosphere, they have a more or less round shape. During falling, the drops are crushed by the air pressure, which eventually causes them to take the shape of a hamburger roll.
8. The American record for rainfall over a 24-hour period was broken in 2018.
In July 1979, tropical storm, Claudette, caused as much as 1090mm of precipitation in just one day in the small town of Alvin, Texas. Alvin kept this record for most rainfall in a 24-hour period in the United States until 2018. In April 2018, in the Hawaiian city of Hanalei, no less than 1262mm of rain fell in a single day.
9. Rain is money.
In the African country of Botswana, the currency is the Botswana pula. The word ‘pula’ also means ‘rain’ and this naming proves how rare and precious rain is in this Sub-Saharan country.
10. It has been raining for a long time.
Scientists discovered fossils with small dents of raindrops that go back some 2.7 billion years. This primal rain fell on layers of ash from volcanic eruptions, after which they were covered by even more ash. Because of this, these miniature craters were preserved for eternity. Interestingly, rainfall caused the erosion that exposed these rain fossils for modern research.