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Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to non-liquid kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail

and sleet. Rain requires the presence of a thick layer of the atmosphere to have temperatures
above the melting point of water near and above the Earth's surface. On Earth, it is the
condensation of atmospheric water vapor into drops of water heavy enough to fall, often making
it to the surface. Two processes, possibly acting together, can lead to air becoming saturated
leading to rainfall: cooling the air or adding water vapor to the air. Virga is precipitation that
begins falling to the earth but evaporates before reaching the surface, it is one of the ways air can
become saturated. Precipitation forms via collision with other rain drops or ice crystals within a
cloud. Rain drops range in size from oblate, pancake-like shapes for larger drops, to small
spheres for smaller drops.

Moisture moving along three-dimensional zones of temperature and moisture contrasts known as
weather fronts is the major method of rain production. If enough moisture and upward motion is
present, precipitation falls from convective clouds (those with strong upward vertical motion)
such as cumulonimbus (thunderstorms) which can organize into narrow rainbands. In
mountainous areas, heavy precipitation is possible where upslope flow is maximized within
windward sides of the terrain at elevation which forces moist air to condense and fall out as
rainfall along the sides of mountains. On the leeward side of mountains, desert climates can exist
due to the dry air caused by downslope flow which causes heating and drying of the air mass.
The movement of the monsoon trough, or intertropical convergence zone, brings rainy seasons to
savannah climes. Rain is the primary source of freshwater for most areas of the world, providing
suitable conditions for diverse ecosystems, as well as water for hydroelectric power plants and
crop irrigation. Rainfall is measured through the use of rain gauges. Rainfall amounts are
estimated actively by weather radar and passively by weather satellites.

The urban heat island effect leads to increased rainfall, both in amounts and intensity, downwind
of cities. Global warming is also causing changes in the precipitation pattern globally, including
wetter conditions across eastern North America and drier conditions in the tropics. Precipitation
is a major component of the water cycle, and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water
on the planet. The globally averaged annual precipitation is 990 millimetres (39 in). Climate
classification systems such as the Köppen climate classification system use average annual
rainfall to help differentiate between differing climate regimes. Antarctica is the Earth's driest
continent. Rain is also known or suspected on other worlds, composed of methane, iron, neon,
and sulfuric acid rather than water.