Now two physicists from Michigan Technological University and colleagues at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National University of Mexico) have discovered that it ain’t necessarily so.
Some smaller raindrops can fall faster than bigger ones. In fact, they can fall faster than their terminal speed. In other words, they can fall faster than drops that size and weight are supposed to be able to fall.
And that could mean that the weatherman has been overestimating how much it rains.
The findings of Michigan Tech physics professors Alexander Kostinski and Raymond Shaw—co-authors with Guillermo Montero-Martinez and Fernando Garcia-Garcia on a paper to be published online on June 13, 2009, in the American Geophysical Union’s journal, Geophysical Research Letters—could improve the accuracy of weather measurement and prediction.
The researchers gathered data during natural rainfalls at the Mexico City campus of the National University of Mexico. They studied approximately 64,000 raindrops over three years, using optical array spectrometer probes and a particle analysis and collecting system. They also modified an algorithm or computational formula to analyze the raindrop sizes.
They found clusters of raindrops falling faster than their terminal speed, and as the rainfall became heavier, they saw more and more of these unexpectedly speedy drops. They think that the “super-terminal” drops come from the break-up of larger drops, which produces smaller fragments all moving at the same speed as their parent raindrop and faster than the terminal speed predicted by their size.
“In the past, people have seen indications of faster-than-terminal drops, but they always attributed it to splashing on the instruments,” Shaw explains. He and his colleagues took special precautions to prevent such interference, including collecting data only during extremely calm conditions.
Their findings could significantly alter physicists’ understanding of the physics of rain.
“Existing rain models are based on the assumption that all drops fall at their terminal speed, but our data suggest that this is not the case,” Shaw and Kostinski say. If rainfall is measured based on that assumption, large raindrops that are not really there will be recorded.
“If we want to forecast weather or rain, we need to understand the rain formation processes and be able to accurately measure the amount of rain,” Shaw pointed out.
Taking super-terminal raindrops into account could be of real economic benefit, even if it leads only to incremental improvements in precipitation measurement and forecasting. Approximately one-third of the economy—including agriculture, construction and aviation—is directly influenced by the ability to predict precipitation accurately. “And one-third of the economy is a very large sum of money, even during a recession,” Shaw remarks.
The physicists’ research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.
Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university, conducting research, developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers nearly 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, forestry and environmental sciences, computing, technology, business and economics, natural and physical sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.
Jennifer Donovan | Newswise Science News
Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien
Magnetic moment of a single antiproton determined with greatest precision ever
19.01.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy