What is the Difference Between Drizzle and Rain? - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

What is the Difference Between Drizzle and Rain?


I received a question about what is the different between drizzle and rain.  This is a great question since we seem to have seen so much of the wet stuff recently! This graphic below does a great job of explaining it but I will go ahead and elaborate. 

 As noted in the graphic the main classifications are based on size of the drop, the rate at which it falls and the visibility that it causes. 

Before we get into all that lets talk about a drop.  A raindrop is actually formed of millions of droplets that are combined together.  "Drizzle" tends to fall from stratus clouds.  These clouds, which are flat like a pancake and occur usually on overcast days, have little upward movement in the clouds.  This prohibits the drops from getting very big and heavy.  Drizzle is usually defined as drops less then .02 inches.  Just like rain you can still have many drops of drizzle falling rapidly although the drops will be lighter as they are not formed from as mainly droplets as rain drops are. Also not being as big they can fall closer together.

Cumulous or towering cumulus clouds, big and puffy like cotton balls, tend do produce raindrops.  These droplets are formed from even more droplets.  This is because cumulous clouds have fast upward currents which allow the drops to latch onto each other, allowing them to stick and grow bigger.  Eventually they will get so heavy and large that they will fall to the ground.  Rain drops can be a variety of sizes from .02 inches up to .25 inches.  They usually fall farther from each other but can fall at a rapid rate reducing visibilities, hence classifying it as light, medium or heavy rain. 

Till next time! Meteorologist Kristen Connolly

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