Let’s learn about rain

Precipitation might ruin your picnic, but life can’t go on without it

A photo of a very small dog in a rain coat on a trail. The dog does not look pleased with the situation.

Rain might not make everyone happy, but life on Earth wouldn’t be the same without it.

Mariana Mikhailova/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Rain, rain, go away. Many people aren’t very happy when a rainy day ruins their outdoor plans. Even worse, rain can fall in extreme amounts, especially during hurricanes and cyclones. Too much rain can result in floods that destroy homes and lives.  

Climate change has changed where rain falls, and how much. For instance, more water now gets dumped on cities during hurricanes. Climate change also moves where rain falls, so some areas that previously received plenty of rain have since been left high and dry.

But rainfall is also crucial to our life on Earth. It’s one part of the water cycle that allows life on land to exist. Farmers need rain for their crops. We also need rain to fill the reservoirs that provide drinking water.

Sometimes there’s too much rain. Sometimes there’s too little. Sometimes it’s just right. No matter what, we can’t live without it. So scientists spend a lot of time studying rain, where it falls and when. They’ve even found that rain might fall on other planets.  

Want to know more? We’ve got some stories to get you started: 

Is weather control a dream or nightmare?: People are changing the weather, and that may not be good (10/19/2017) Readability: 7.2 

Raindrops break the speed limit: Tiny drops fall faster than expected, and scientists don’t know why (11/7/2014) Readability: 7.8 

Spotted: An exoplanet where it might rain: Two teams have detected signs that the world, called K2 18b, has a damp atmosphere (10/25/2019) Readability: 7.0 

Explore more 

Scientists Say: Petrichor 

Explainer: Earth’s water is all connected in one vast cycle 

Cool Jobs: Wet and wild weather 

The odd ways that weather can unfold in a warming world 

Dirty clouds change rainfall 

This umbrella ‘listens’ to rain — for science 

Word find

Do you know how to measure how much rain falls in your area? If you wanted to design a way to measure the rain, how would you do it? Use this activity from NASA to design and build your own rain gauge.  

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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