Rain or Showers; That is the Question

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When we were contemplating a move to Oregon, we were warned about wind and rain. “Stay away if you don’t like the rain,” we were told. “It rains there every day.”

Well, not really. It doesn’t rain every day, but yes, it does rain a lot. In southern Idaho rain is scarce. We were lucky to see ten inches of rain a year. In Oregon we see that much rain in one month. Idaho weathermen talk about wind and drought. Oregon weathermen talk about rain and showers.

“What is it?” my husband asked me the other day. “Rain or showers?”

Thus began the debate. Was it raining, or was this a shower? We asked our resident son. “It’s raining,” he said.

“No,” his wife said. “It’s a shower.”

Which sent me to the Internet and dictionary. What should be easy to differentiate appears to be tricky. Even though “showers” are indeed rain, there’s a subtle difference as far as weather forecasts go.

This is what I learned.

“Rain” as in “a rainy day” or “occasional rain” is more widespread. Most, if not all, of the area will see rain and it will last for a while. Unlike rain “showers” the duration of rain is steady and prolonged. Rain tends to be light to moderate in intensity and generally comes from stratus clouds. Rain usually lasts longer than showers.

“Showers,” on the other hand, are more scattered. It could be raining in Lincoln City, but dry in South Beach. Showers tend to be shorter in duration, while rain could last all day. “Showers,” also known as “rain showers,” tend to be quick and come in bursts. Showers come from puffy clouds or cumuliform clouds like cumulus or cumulonimbus. Compared to rain, showers cover a smaller area but can be more intense. Conversely, showers are more dispersed than rain. Isolated showers are those that are divided during a certain time frame. Local showers is rain that happens in a much smaller area of coverage. There are also patchy showers, which happen irregularly within a specific area. Showers often start and end more abruptly compared to rains.

Yesterday we drove to Lincoln City and it started to rain. “So,” I said. “Is this rain or showers?”

My husband turned on the windshield wipers. “Showers,” he said. “Anything over three clicks on the wiper switch is showers, not rain.”

So there you have it, if you ever get caught in a debate about rain or showers. Either way you’ll need an umbrella.

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