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Precipitation or “Precip” is water falling from the atmosphere.  It’s important to know the different types of precipitation because they can affect flight operations.  The amount or intensity of precipitation can be defined as:






Let’s take a look at the three types of precipitation:




Rain occurs when the atmosphere is saturated (or full) with water which happens most often during the spring and summer time.  Light rain is called a drizzle while heavy rain is called a downpour.

In some cases, the temperature of the rain drops may be below freezing yet still remain as a liquid,  known as freezing rain.  These supercooled droplets will instantly freeze upon contact with an object such as an airplane’s wing or fuselage.




Hail is almost always produced by very intense thunder storms.  Hail originally starts as rain but freezes while still in the thunderstorm clouds and falls to the ground as ice. These pieces of ice are called hailstones.



Snow occurs during the fall and winter time during below freezing conditions.  Snow that is light and doesn’t last very long is called a snow flurry.  Moderate to heavy snow may accumulate or build on the ground and cause delays at airports.





Drizzle – Light rain

Downpour – Heavy rain

Supercooled – A substance in a liquid state despite being at a below freezing temperature.

Freezing rain – Supercooled water droplets that instantly freeze on contact.

Hailstone – A particle of ice

Snow flurry – Light snow



  • How do you prepare for various type of precipitation?
  • How does snow affect the operations at an airport?
  • What are dangers associated with hail?








Photo Credits:

-Edal Anton Lefterov via wikipedia

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Author: Collin

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