What are the different types of precipitation? Precipitation refers to the falling of atmospheric water from clouds as a part of the water cycle. It occupies the 3rd link in this cycle, after evaporation and condensation. All types of precipitation begin in the form of clouds, though different types of clouds will be associated with different types of precipitation. The physical form they take varies depending on a few key conditions, ranging from simple drops of water (rain) to a crystalline structure (snow). The main distinguishing feature for each of them is the temperature range at which they occur, all of which fall in between the two extreme cases of snow and rain.
One of the more frequent occurring types of precipitation such as rain occurs when the ambient air temperature is above freezing, while snow occurs when the air temperature is below freezing; as a result, they can be used as approximate measures of air temperature. The more in-between types of precipitation take less straightforward routes with this regard: sleet, essentially a semi-solid intersection of snow and rain, occurs within a few degrees above or below the freezing point and partially freezes or melts based on tortures close to the ground. Hail occurs mostly in summer storms where the air temperature is so much lower and more turbulent than normal that they maintain large, icy shapes despite the relative heat of the ground. A special case must be made of freezing rain, as it occurs when the temperatures at the cloud level are much higher than surface temperatures at ground level; on contact with ground-level objects, thermal exchange causes the rain to lose all of its heat energy and freeze into an icy coating over the objects.
Another difference comes in the overall weather patterns associated with them; rain and snow are usually present with moderate cloud cover, though exceptions to exist in the case of thunderstorms and hurricanes. By contrast, sleet and hail are associated with thicker cloud cover and stormier weather, due to the more extreme conditions necessary to produce them. While all types of precipitation are ultimately water, the expansion of water molecules as a result of the freezing process means colder weather precipitation will occupy more volume with the same amount of water. As a general scale, one linear inch of rain is equivalent to an entire foot of snow, with the other various types of precipitation falling somewhere in between.
Precipitation can pose enormous problems for humans they fail to attend to them. In the Southern United States, where hailstorms can be common in the summer months, turbine aircraft may take vast amounts of the icy debris into their engines, causing massive strain. Freezing rain is also a serious concern; the extra mass added by the thick coating of ice can put tremendous strain on objects, ultimately leading to severe damage. In a less straightforward example, acid rain (a chemical cocktail of straight rain and the gasses of environmental pollution) can destroy soil and poison aquatic wildlife, leading to its status as a major environmental concern. Thus precipitation must be observed with caution.