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Precipitation And Factors Affecting Precipitation


Definition of Precipitation:

It is defined as the fall of moisture from the atmosphere to the earth surface in any physical form. Usually precipitation is in two forms:

  1. Liquid - rainfall
  2. Solid Precipitation
    1. Snow
    2. Hail
    3. Sleet
    4. Freezing rain
  • It is major factor controlling hydrology of a region.

  • It is major input of water to the earth surface.

Knowledge of rainfall in space and time is necessary for understanding soil moisture, groundwater, recharge and river flow. Data of rainfall (precipitation) is more readily available, for cities and longer period, than for any other component of hydrological cycle. In some countries precipitation data may constitute the only hydrological record. The study of precipitation is thus of fundamental importance to hydrolysis but detail investigation of the mechanism of its formation is the domain of meteorologists and climatologists. Total amount of water in atmosphere represent only a minute proportion of world water budget. Atmospheric water accounts for less than 0.001% of world total supply of land, ocean and atmospheric water. But this small amount serves as a continuous source of supply. Hydrologists are only interested in the distribution itself, in how much precipitation occurs and when and where it falls and their interest cease when precipitation reaches ground. The hydrological aspect of precipitation studies are conceived with the forces in which precipitation occur, its variation in both, space and time.

Factors Affecting Precipitation

Heavy precipitation occurs near the equator and decreases with the increase in the latitude i.e. Towards polar regions. Main source of moisture for ppt is evaporation from oceans. Therefore, ppt tends to be heavier near coastlines. Since lifting of air masses is the cause of almost all ppt, amount and frequency of rain is genrally greater on windward side of the mountain. As downslope motion of air results in decease in humidity, thus the opposite sides of barriers  usually experience relatively light ppt. High amount of ppt is reported at higher elevations.

During the year

  • High ppt occurs in humid season i.e July, August
  • Low ppt occurs in dry season i.e May, June
  • Pressure variation in a particular area causes ppt.
  • Presence of mountains cause orographic ppt.
  • Temperature variation also causes ppt in a particular area.

Precipitation, which refers to the various forms of water falling from the atmosphere to the Earth's surface, is influenced by several factors. These factors can be broadly categorized into three main groups: atmospheric conditions, geographical factors, and global climate patterns. Here are the key factors that affect precipitation:

1. Atmospheric Conditions:

   - Moisture Content: The amount of moisture present in the atmosphere is a critical factor in precipitation. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. When warm, moisture-laden air rises and cools, it reaches its saturation point, leading to condensation and the formation of clouds and precipitation.

   - Air Masses and Fronts: The movement and interaction of air masses and fronts play a significant role in precipitation patterns. When warm and cold air masses meet, it can lead to the formation of clouds and precipitation along frontal boundaries.

   - Orographic Uplift: When air is forced to rise over elevated terrain, such as mountains, it undergoes orographic uplift. As the air rises, it cools, and moisture condenses, resulting in increased precipitation on the windward side of the mountains.

2. Geographical Factors:

   - Topography: The shape and elevation of the land influence precipitation patterns. Mountains, hills, and valleys can impact the movement of air masses, causing variations in rainfall amounts. Windward slopes of mountains tend to receive more precipitation than leeward slopes.

   - Proximity to Water Bodies: Coastal areas or regions near large water bodies often experience higher precipitation due to the availability of moisture from the water. Ocean currents can also affect precipitation patterns by influencing the transport of moisture-laden air.

3. Global Climate Patterns:

   - El Niño and La Niña: El Niño and La Niña are phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, which affects global weather patterns. El Niño events typically result in increased precipitation in some regions, while La Niña events can lead to drier conditions in certain areas.

   - Monsoons: Monsoons are seasonal winds that bring heavy rainfall to certain regions. The presence of monsoon systems, such as the Asian monsoon or the North American monsoon, significantly influences the precipitation patterns in those areas.

   - Climate Change: Climate change can impact precipitation patterns on a global scale. Rising temperatures can affect the water cycle, altering evaporation rates, atmospheric moisture content, and precipitation patterns. Changes in precipitation can lead to more frequent or intense rainfall events in some regions and drought conditions in others.

It is important to note that these factors interact with each other, resulting in complex precipitation patterns. Climate models and meteorological observations help scientists understand and predict precipitation variations, aiding in water resource management, agriculture, and disaster preparedness.


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