Moderate rain falls at. Light rain falls at. Drizzle will fall at a rate of only. One natural rainmaking process involves the joining together, or coalescence, of the small droplets. Little droplets stick together and become bigger droplets, until they're heavy enough to fall to the ground. That sounds easy enough, but because of the way air streams around small objects, if the droplets are less than.
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The figure shows that air stream. A large droplet might approach a smaller one, but it does not necessarily collide because of the air motion, especially if the large droplet isn't much bigger. The smaller one just deflects the bigger one. Unfortunately, in most clouds over land areas, only one in every 10 million droplets is initially at that.
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Over the oceans, giant salt nuclei do generate larger cloud droplets, and coalescence works quite well. But over land masses, where most of us live, it would never rain. So … why does it rain? Ice acts as a magnet for water vapor. Ice really is nice. When ice crystals are around, water vapor thinks the relative humidity is 10 to 20 percent higher than when just water droplets are in the neighborhood.
Toss ice into a cloud. Suddenly the pressure of the vapor becomes so great that it simply rushes onto the surface of the ice. The crystal grows rapidly—until it becomes sufficiently heavy to fall.
It could melt during descent. If so, it would turn into a large droplet that more easily coalesces with smaller ones.
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