20 Things You Didn't Know About … Rain

Posted on Categories Discover Magazine

10. On Saturn itself, as well as Jupiter, droplets of helium rain may fall from the gas giants’ outer layers toward the interior, according to research published in 2010 in Physical Review Letters.

11. But nowhere on Earth, Saturn or anywhere else has it rained cats and dogs. There’s a flood of theories about the origin of the popular saying, which was first recorded in the mid-17th century.

12. Some etymologists think the phrase refers to dead animals washed into the streets after a downpour. But others see a possible corruption of the Old English word for waterfall, catadupe, which makes more sense than falling Fidos and Fluffys.

13. It rains some serious catadupe in Cherrapunji, India. The weather station there holds the world record for the heaviest 48-hour rainfall (more than 98 inches), set in 2014.

14. Cherrapunji also holds a long-standing record for highest rainfall in a 12-month period: 86 feet, 10 inches, set back in 1860-1861.

15. The folks in Cherrapunji might be tired of it, but many people enjoy petrichor, the scent that often follows rainfall. Two Australian researchers coined the term back in the 1960s.

16.A U.S.-based team working at about the same time identified geosmin, a byproduct of soil bacteria, as the source of earthy notes in the distinctive smell.

17. Researchers discovered the likely mechanism behind petrichor only in 2015: A study in Nature Communications found that the average raindrop hits a porous surface with enough force to trap air bubbles at point of impact. The bubbles then rise and pop, releasing aerosols, including geosmin.

18. Many people find the sound of rain as pleasant as its smell, but a 2016 study determined it’s also possible to measure rainfall amounts over oceans by monitoring the sound of droplets hitting the waves.

19. And quantifying oceanic rainfall, notoriously difficult to do, is important: 80 percent of the planet’s precipitation lands there.

20. Since Earth’s water cycle is essentially evaporation from the surface, condensation in the upper atmosphere and precipitation (gravity sending that condensation back down), those little droplets are really just going home.

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