Do raindrops have big bottoms?

Do raindrops have big bottoms?

All the kids think so. The miserable cold torrential rains have returned home to their resident islands, unpacked their little soggy suitcases and switched on the telly. Their feet are under the table.

It is a return to normality for us all. Umbrellas, wet playtime, stout waterproof shoes. Our millions of junior rain artists have moved into gear, chronicling wet playtimes and Sundays stuck inside with rain pictures full of your classic raindrops.

And this is how they draw them: with tiny pointy heads and Beyonce behinds. How glorious that would be, the raindrops doing The Hump from high altitudes, shimmying from two thousand feet to collide with the burgeoning club-puddles on England’s surface.

Party.

We all collude in this picture of raindrops: it’s a conspiracy. While children sit at tables colouring their well-behaved drops in with azure felt tip pens, teachers like me teach the water cycle using the same asinine symbol. Look children, we say, the water evaporates and rises in the warm air to become clouds. Then, the cold air causes the raindrops to condense and fall, bottom-first, tiny princess tips above, to meet the earth once more and converge into rivers and seas.

We even draw the drops on the whiteboard.

Wrong.

Your average raindrop falls to earth at about 20 miles per hour, or nine metres per second. Its journey begins in a cloud where it hangs, stationary, at peace with the drops around it, kept there by air resistance. It may be anything between one millimetre and nine millimetres in diameter and it is perfectly spherical, a small buddha suspended with all the others in this great silver metropolis of stasis.

If I were a raindrop I would never want it to end.

But all good things must cease and it is the same for our little spherical raindrop as for a middle-aged mother. Life can have an impact on the most perfect form. Get used to it.

The catalyst for change is turbulence.

And when this disruption to routine arrives the droplets do the most sensible thing I can imagine. They coalesce.

For the rain drop is about to meet its nemesis: the force of the air coming the other way.

So as the droplets coalesce they become bigger and they’re falling, and the air is pushing the other way: and so the bottom of the drop flattens out to meet it – like a hamburger bun.

The really big ones get so flat that they turn over on themselves and become tiny parachute-shaped water formations, ten-metre-a-second droplets which kick a hole in the soil when they get to it.

But even torrential rain doesn’t hurt, what with these little parachutes doing their job and all.Β The bigger a raindrop is, the more likely it is to break apart. When it gets to a centimetre it will separate into smaller droplets.

And down here on the surface of the islands we wait for the cloud to pass and then put on our wellies and hitch the dogs to leads, to sample the sogginess the day has brought.

You have to be fast. The brilliant sunny spells are usually about half an hour long, and they lull you into a false sense of security. But me and four-year-old Big Al, we’re getting canny.We watch the torrential downpour philosophically, elbows on the windowsill. And when the sun comes out we’re in the car, speeding towards the bit of the forest where I can handle three feisty dogs and a toddler unaided.

In the sun, the forest glitters. The water is everywhere, felling into step in tiny rivulets which delight the boy in red wellies. He complained bitterly at having to put them on, but they have distinct advantages. He can go in most puddles.

I was on the phone to my sister sorting out hospital business when I glanced round to find Al heading for black mud, squelching around the border of a dark and lowering puddle. “No, Al, ” I said, “we’re not going in there.”

He was not convinced.

My sister offered some helpful advice down the phone. “Tell him it’s the Swamp of Stinkiness. He won’t go in then.”

“Al,” I parroted obediently: “that is the Swamp of Stinkiness.”

Immediately a new respect dawned in his eyes. He eyed the black mass warily. “That’s the Swamp of Stinkiness?” he confirmed.

“It is. The Swamp Of Stinkiness.”

He backed away. the moment had passed. And all the way back down the path as the dogs cavorted in very smelly water indeed, he was inquiring:”Aunie Kate – isΒ that the Swamp of Stinkiness?”

Each time I would say: yes, Al, that’s the Swamp of Stinkiness.

Poor raindrops. From buddha-like stasis to the Swamp of Stinkiness, all in a matter of minutes.

Let us hope for some warm evaporation weather very soon.

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68 thoughts on “Do raindrops have big bottoms?

  1. I BELIEVE raindrops have fat bottoms. They are the fat bottomed ladies who – here in Africa provide the very basics of life, – and the traditional shape for us women is to be fat-bottomed πŸ˜‰

  2. I remember the huge rain drops in Africa and how I could hardly believe how huge they were. Now I know they were no larger than 1cm across!
    I was caught out on doorsteps yesterday. Several times, on the doorstep with out an umbrella. Like being up the creek without a paddle.

    1. Pseu, I am commenting here after having read through all your research – fab stuff! Rosemary is right, your raindrop is beautiful indeed, and your favourite just stunning. I had a lovely time with the report, too – it seems drops of 9mm and over are termed super-drops, and location can circumstance determines just how fat-bottomed they are. Thank you: as usual, your extra research is a treat!

  3. LOL…love this post, Kate…and that gorgeous photo! You never fail to inspire the most magical imaginings πŸ™‚ And now I feel quite silly for never having wondered about the raindrop shape before!

  4. Why is Big Al afraid of the Swamp of Stinkiness? Is it not a little boy magnet?

    This post would make an excellent children’s book. The descriptions lend themselves to those lovely drawn illustrations.

    Sunny weather is coming, Kate. It has to be.

    1. I do not know why the Swamp has such power, Andra. Following Karen’s tip-off as to its provenance I may just watch a few Backyardigans reruns to find out.

      Childrens’ books….oh, to support oneself by writing….

      The sun is up there above the clouds, I always think. I imagine being in a plane above the cover, in brilliant light. Let us both hope the sun gains the power to burn through the drizzle πŸ™‚

  5. I love the rain, Kate, and I love this post as well! The Swamp of Stinkiness sounds a very interesting place, full of gurgling monsters and trolls and bridges and shadows…
    I remember once, many years ago, I was out in a shower and I’m sure the raindrops were bigger than you describe here, but when they land they spread out, so on reflection maybe they weren’t… I remember hearing a strange ‘splopp’ noise behind me, and then another over the road, then another in front, and as I looked, I watched the dry ground gradually fill with dinner plate sized wet patches. And I avoided every raindrop. A very surreal experience!

  6. Love the meteorological education today, I shall never look at rain the same again as I imagine all the little gyrations going on.
    Big Al is a trip indeed, I never fail to chuckle whenever he is in a story. Hope to hear more of the “Swamp of Stinkiness”.

  7. While trying to find out if air temperature effects droplet size I found this:

    ‘Raindrops get their start as cloud droplets. At the center of almost every cloud droplet is a condensation nucleus, a microscopic particle of smoke, dust or salt that serves as a place for water vapor to condense. While condensation nuclei are invisible to the unaided eye, they are much larger than an individual water vapor molecule. A typical cloud results from trillions of water
    vapor molecules condensing onto millions of condensation nuclei.’

    All so interesting!
    http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/askjack/waskrain.htm

  8. Every post starring Big Al leaves me laughing out loud!!

    I, too, think you should be penning children’s books, Kate, without a doubt! I can just see the illustration for this descriptive segment: “The miserable cold torrential rains have returned home to their resident islands, unpacked their little soggy suitcases and switched on the telly. Their feet are under the table.” πŸ™‚

    And, by the way, methinks Big Al’s mama is every bit as quick on her feet as Auntie Kate; Swamp of Stinkiness, indeed! Then again, maybe all mamas of 4-year old boys today know of this place: http://backyardigans.wikia.com/wiki/Swamp_of_Stinkiness I, however, had never visited there before today.

    1. Big Al’s mum has had four year’s practice at being ahead of that particular game, Karen πŸ˜€ Her advice was solid, and held fast all the way home. You are clever to track this back to the Backyardigans! I had forgotten it is just their style!

  9. Big Al’s Adventures in the Forest. Chapter I. The Swamp of Stinkiness.

    Somehow, the Swamp of Stinkiness reminds me of The Neverending Story, though Karen seems to have found its provenance with the Backyardigans. At any rate, Kate, another informative post and one I’ll be thinking about today as you’ve described our weather here on the Cutoff.

  10. I’m guilty of drawing those same big bottomed drops on blackboards all over the city.. I’ve corrupted many a young mind and now there’s no way to undo the damage… lol!! Great perspective..I love that you’ve even thought about this, it made an awesome post today!

  11. I will never think of rain, or Swamps of Stinkiness quite the same way. And oh, to be the young raindrop, the serene member of its cloud. I’d never want to leave either. Except that zooming down sounds awfully fun!

  12. I don’t know the scientific explanation, but a raindrop that goes splat or plop must surely have a fat bottom. Those drops that sting when they hit your face — those surely are needle-tipped.

    1. Nope: apparently not; the raindrops which make a plop in water do so because of the bubbles of air oscillating underwater – according to Wikipedia, of course, so open to debate πŸ™‚ Not so sure on the splat front though…

  13. Great post again Kate. I always think there is something hypnotic about the rain. I love summer rain, as it’s cool and refreshing. Winter rain is icy, freezing and is usually accompanied by gale force winds; fascinating if viewed from indoors.

  14. I thought I knew all the Backyardigan episodes! I guess I didn’t πŸ™‚ I admire that you’ve actually given considerable thought to the physics of a downpour! I will look at the rain differently in the future…and my little rain drops in the water cycle charts even had smiling faces! Ha! Debra

  15. LOL! From the wonderful image of Beyonce-like raindrops “shimmying from two thousand feet” to the “Swamp of Stinkiness” – what an entertainment, Mrs Shrewsday πŸ™‚

  16. I’ve no idea if you know of this…we were a bit old for it when it first hit the theaters, but I adored it all the same, David Bowie and Jennifer Connely (she was early teens) in a movie called Labyrinth. There is a bog of eternal stench…thought of it immediately. I hope this link works, enjoy ~

    1. Angela: that bog looks very much like ours. And I will swear I heard some of the same noises. I am beginning to frame a hypothesis: that Macaulay was once a beautiful white dog like that one, but repeated exposure to the swamp of stinkiness has changed him forever to a muddy brown.

  17. So many of my beliefs shattered. Rain-drops aren’t pear-shaped after all, and even worse, it seems Beyonce has a big bum…

    1. I am surprised you hadn’t noticed, TinMan. It tends to attract the camera somewhat. Me, I call it a strength. I was going to choose Je-Lo but I’ve never seen her move that booty like Beyonce does.

  18. Fascinating. I’ll never look at rain in the same way again (and I saw a cenizo blooming today, so I hope…) The Swamp of Stinkiness sounds like something out of The Pilgrim’s Progress. I’m impressed that Big Al won’t enter it. Several little boys I’ve known would make a beeline for something called stinky.

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