Virga- The Rain That Doesn't Fall


by Ryan Overton

Have you ever seen something in the sky that looks like this?

This is what is known as Virga.

In meteorological terms its rain that doesn't quite make it to the ground. A little background for some of you "Junior Wood Chuck Meteorologists" as my professor would say, clouds are made up of water, so its only natural for gravity to take over and have it fall from the sky.

Notice the picture above though? It stops falling. Maybe you have seen this before. The cloud is actually producing rain, but the rain doesn't make it to the ground. So how does this happen?

Well even in our cold climate of Alaska there is still evaporation that happens. Whether realize it or not, there is always water in the sky, and on some nights with less than ample humidity (less than 60%) evaporation can happen quite quickly. So with a sun shining on a cloud such as the one above and low humidity, as water approaches the earth it evaporates before it hits the ground.

Think about the opposite! A stove with boiling water, you only see the water escape as a vapor for a few seconds before its gone! Same is true with Virga! Next time you see this snap a photo and send it to me! Ill get it out on air!

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