Harish Jharia

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01 November 2009

How Do Clouds Turn Into Rain Water?

© Harish Jharia

How Do Clouds Turn Into Rain Water?

This was a question that kept resounding in my mind for many years in my school days. I asked every possible answerer and was not convinced with their answers.

Clouds at 10km altitude... about to freeze...

The answers that I received from people and the doubts that I had in my childhood days were something like that written as follows:

1. Answer: The clouds carry water from the seas to the land and rain when they are stopped by some mountain, hills or forests.

My doubts: If clouds carry water, they should be heavy. Then how could they go up in the sky and move around. Moreover, what happens with the clouds when mountains, hills or forests stop them and convert them into showers of water?

2. Answer: Clouds are filled up in the trees of forests and are not allowed to go ahead unless they rain.

My doubts: what happens with the clouds when they are filled up in the hoard of trees in the forest and convert them into showers of water?

3. Answer: Clouds are made of water vapor and they rain when they hit against mountains.

My doubts: what happens with the clouds made of water vapor when they hit against mountains for converting them into showers of water?

No one could convince me with an answer that could clear my doubts about the conversion of clouds into showers of water that is more popularly known as rains. We were also taught about the water-cycle that:

  1. The water of seas convert into water vapors and form clouds
  2. Clouds go around to the mountains and hills and convert into water that resulted in rains
  3. Rain water flow into rivers and eventually go back to the seas

In spite of having taught about water cycle I was not convinced as to “how the water vapor converts in to showers of water. I kept asking this question from many people including teachers and did not get a convincing answer.

We were also taught separately that the hill-stations have a colder weather. Hill stations along Himalayas get snowfall also in winters. There are hill stations in tropical regions like south India there also the temperature is lower than that in the other parts of the country. Nevertheless, these hill stations do not get snowfalls.

I connected this theory of low temperature on hills with the process of raining and was even not convinced with it because the hills and mountains are not everywhere on the land. Then how do the clouds rain in the areas of plain land, cities, and deserts where there are no mountains hills and forests.

I understood this theory convincingly only when I boarded a flight to a western country and observed the map on the onboard GPS system. I was flying at about 11km from the sea level and well above the clouds and the temperature was showing -70deg C.

There were gusts of winds at the speed of more than 100kmph when we got alerts about turbulence experienced by the aircraft and the pilots managing to maintain balance in the winds blowing in different directions.

This was the time when the unanswered question flashed in my mind that “How do the clouds convert into showers of water that are called rains?” and the answers that flashed in my mind were as follows:

  1. There is subzero temperature at higher altitudes if you go 5 to 10 km above sea level
  2. When the clouds go above this level they cool down and convert into grains of ice
  3. These grains of ice join together and make blocks of ice that fall towards the earth
  4. These ice blocks keep melting as they pass through the earth's atmosphere and eventually turn into water and fall on the earth as rains
  5. The ice blocks that do not melt completely even after crossing the earth's atmosphere, fall on the earth as pieces of ice that is called hail, hailstorm or shower of hailstone.

That is how, I got the answer of my question...


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