Breakdown: Why raindrops can be different shapes and sizes

Breakdown: Why raindrops can be different shapes & sizes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The classic drawing of a raindrop looks like a teardrop, but scientists have found that a raindrop actually looks more like a hamburger bun.

When moisture falls from clouds, they are spherically shaped raindrops. As the raindrop grows and they fall, force from the surrounding air increases against the drop.

Raindrop Sizes
Raindrop Sizes (Source: NOAA)

This means the bottom of the droplet becomes flatter. As the rain drop grows large enough, the drag force against the drop will become large enough to split the raindrop.

This in turn creates smaller droplets that falls to earth, as a spherical droplet with a flattened bottom.

Raindrops smaller than 1 millimeter usually maintain their shape until they collide with other raindrops. This collision can cause raindrops to combine and grow to a bigger size. If the raindrop is bigger than 2 or 3 millimeters, it will take on the shape of a kidney bean or hamburger bun.

If a raindrop is bigger, it will fall faster, which means it will be flattened more by the surrounding air.

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