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The Water Cycle and The Three Different Types of Rainfall and Precipitation

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Cumulus clouds over Swifts Creek, Australia. A truly beautiful image.

Cumulus clouds over Swifts Creek, Australia. A truly beautiful image.

Make it rain!

Make it rain!

Rain and Water

In some countries, it rains all the time and plays a major role in the growing of grass and crops. Did you ever wonder why Ireland is such a green country? This is because it rains a lot in Ireland, giving the grass plenty of water which makes it thrive. Rain is essential for life, without water and rain, we would not survive. We need rain for the growing of crops and grass and all the lakes and rivers need it.

Rain is truly beautiful and it would nice to study it in more detail and how it works. In this article, I will be explaining everything you need to know about the water cycle, about the different types of rainfall and clouds. As well as that, you will be given some wonderful, panoramic pictures to view to make this article a truly indispensable resource.

The Water Cycle

How does water move from the rivers and streams all the way up to the sky and form as clouds? How does water move from sea to sky? These questions can be answered using the water cycle or hydrological cycle as it is more scientifically called. This cycle is the cycle that makes water move from sea to sky and sky to river. Without this we would have no streams, lakes or no rain, not even sea. Without this cycle it would not be possible for humans or animals to survive at all. Here it is.

  • The cycle begins at sea. Water from the sea is warmed by the sun. This causes the seawater to evaporate. The seawater turns to water vapour and steam. The vapour rises as hot air tends to be light.
  • As the water vapour rises, it is cooled. This cooling causes the water vapour to condense as cool air tends to be heavier and cannot store water droplets.
  • When the vapour condenses, it forms cloud. The cloud receives more and more vapour until it cannot store any more. The cloud is saturated and so, begins to precipitate.
  • Depending on temperature, precipitation has many forms. It can include rain, hailstones, sleet or snow. The most likely form is rain.
  • The rain or precipitation flows into rivers and streams and these rivers and streams bring the water back to the sea where the cycle begins again.

Below is a diagram explaining the water cycle in more detail. Study it carefully and follow the route of the water.

The water cycle as it occurs in real life.

The water cycle as it occurs in real life.

There are three main types of rainfall which occur very frequently in the world and depend on a variety of factors. Here are the three main types of rainfall:

  1. Relief Rainfall
  2. Convectional Rainfall
  3. Frontal Rainfall

Did you ever wonder why there may be thundery, heavy showers on a hot, July day? Or did you ever wonder why it always rains when you live on the foot of a mountain near the sea? The three different types of rainfall I have explained below will answer all your questions.

Relief rainfall is common in places with mountains and sea.

Relief rainfall is common in places with mountains and sea.

Relief Rainfall

Relief rainfall occurs very frequently near mountains beside the sea.

  • Moisture-laden wind blows in from the sea. Because the wind meets a high mountain, it is forced to rise upwards. As it rises upwards, it is cooled and cloud is formed.
  • The cloud becomes saturated with water vapour and it begins to precipitate on the side of the mountain facing the sea. This side of the mountain is known as the windward side.
  • The cloud precipitates the most on the windward side of the mountain. By the time the cloud meets the other side, which is called the leeward side, the cloud has already lost most of its moisture so it rains very little there.
  • This makes leeward sides of a mountain very sheltered from rain and they hardly ever get much rain.
  • There is a more moist climate on windward sides of slopes whilst there is a more dry, sheltered climate on the leeward side.

This rainfall is very common in Hawaii, Sierra Nevada and the Andes.

A hot summers day can easily turn into a dark, rainy day.

A hot summers day can easily turn into a dark, rainy day.

Convectional Rainfall

You may be outside on a picnic on a hot summers day. You are enjoying yourself and you are soaking in the rays of sunshine. Suddenly, the sky gets darker and a dark, grey cumulus cloud is coming your way. Without warning, the heavens open and it begins to rain, with an almost thundery feel. Convectional rain occurs frequently on hot days usually giving cumulus cloud and thundery showers.

  • The sun heats the Earth's ground. This causes the air to warm and become very hot.
  • The air rises upwards. The air is then cooled and condenses to form cumulus cloud.
  • When the cumulus cloud is saturated, it begins to precipitate giving heavy and thundery showers.

That is why you get thundery showers on a hot day, because the sun warms the air and it rises, cools and begins to rain.

Air mass is the same word for 'front'. That is another word to add to your weather vocabulary!

Frontal rainfall occurs when a warm air mass meets a cold air mass and cloud forms.

Frontal rainfall occurs when a warm air mass meets a cold air mass and cloud forms.

Frontal Rainfall

This occurs when a warm, tropical air mass comes in contact with a cold, polar air mass and is very common in Britain and Ireland.

  • A warm, tropical air mass comes in contact with a cold, polar air mass. Because the air in the warm front is well, warm then it rises over the cold front.
  • The air is cooled and condenses to form stratus cloud.
  • When the stratus cloud becomes saturated, it begins to precipitate.

For More Information, Check Out This Book

If you want to learn more about cloud shapes or predicting the weather, I'd highly recommend this book on reading the clouds which was recommended to me a while back. I've always been fascinated by how to predict the weather based on clouds, and if you're interested in this too then check out the book below!


Zunaira on August 26, 2020:

I am reading this only because there was thunderous rain today.

geography test on May 27, 2020:

there was no answer for my geography test

Nurudeen Ahmed on May 10, 2020:

Rain is so beautiful and loving if only it caused no disaster. Actually it is one of the favors the Almighty has given to humanity. As said, water is life . I love rain.

hi on September 09, 2019:


Fahiq on August 25, 2019:


sudha on August 25, 2019:


Salisu tawa on August 13, 2019:

In some part of nigeria which is my country. some area are not having surplus of rain, in rainy sesson. e.g plast like borno state.

... on July 24, 2019:

Can we talk about something irrelevant? You know like..... BANANAS

Sam Abende Wantsa on July 03, 2019:

Without rain no living thing would exist

Young t talla on June 24, 2019:

I likek the rainfall

scp-096 on June 12, 2019:

The rainfall water cycle is very interesting. How earth was magically formed to make a cycle of life naturally. Unfortunately though, us humans are slowly destroying what the universe gifted to us. We need to reconstruct the society, and not be so dependent on factories. Some people have never heard of renewable fossil fuels. The ozone layer is slowly damaged, the atmosphere traps the carbon dioxide. We will all be doomed in this rate by 2069 study shows. Does God exist? Big bang? personally i slightly believe in God but how did god come into existence. Ask yourself these questions and you'll fall down a spiral of mysteries and questions. Where do we go when we die? Life is a mystery and rain is one of the puzzle pieces that adds onto it. Help me find the answer on my journey of theory of knowledge

KYEYUNE IBRAHIM on June 03, 2019:

Rain Is Everything.

aisha and nawal on May 23, 2019:


tonna on May 09, 2019:


Yettheyeetkid on March 18, 2019:

Rain is yeet

COOL-JAY on March 17, 2019:


kiteeeeeeeeeeeee on March 17, 2019:

rain makes everyone wet so luv it rn

Andrew steele on March 06, 2019:

rain is life giving and nothing can live without it

eclise on March 05, 2019:

rain is fun when there is lots of it

Bob the builder on February 21, 2019:

Hey it’s bob

cunt on January 30, 2019:

rain is the worst thing ever

U on January 21, 2019:

Rain is awesome

Ya nan on December 17, 2018:

Ew rain

Hanan fuad on December 15, 2018:

U r ausome

sony on October 03, 2018:

I like rainfall

Eliaza on September 21, 2018:

I like the Rain fall

Abhijit on July 26, 2018:


Jorge on June 18, 2018:

This is not helpful as all the rain is the same. It all falls from the sky, it all sounds amazing and it all makes you wet, not in that way. SO, what I'm getting at is that this is not helpful at all and you are stupid. This is really not helpful at all and you and your comments about rain are stupid and i hope you reflect on what you've said and make sure not to disrespect Allah. P.S Earth is flat.

Thank You.

Tanko A A on June 02, 2018:

Raining season is one of my best season

Hassan qazi (Nasarpur) on May 22, 2018:

Rainfall is one of the natural process of Almighty Allah. Never be depressed and annoyed from the nature of Allah

China on May 20, 2018:

Rain definitely on drugs

Dr Aye Aye Chit on May 16, 2018:

I like the rainy season.

popsel on March 23, 2018:

good website :)

Sundee on March 20, 2018:

Rain is cool

Ghost nuke on March 16, 2018:

Rain is dope

what on March 15, 2018:


jeff on January 23, 2018:

what is this "rain" u speak of

sean on January 17, 2018:

seriously luv the water cycle how dub r u

I love the water cycle on August 07, 2017:

I love the water cycle

RITESH on April 22, 2017:


i like rain on December 05, 2016:

i like rain its so beautiful