Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: Raindrops and Teardrops

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
What is the shape of a rain drop? Is is a tear drop like artists draw it. How do you find out how big a rain is when it is falling?
- Sean Belcher (age 7)
Covina Ca USA
Thanks for your question! In fact, raindrops DO NOT have the "tear drop" shape that many people think. Raindrops are circular, or round, as they fall through the air. They may jiggle around a little and be more oval shaped sometimes, but they are not shaped like a teardrop. This classic teardrop shape comes from water dripping out of a faucet (or off of a plant leaf, or out of a dropper). As the water builds up it gets heavier and heavier. This causes the water to dangle down a bit, but it is still holding on to all the other water in the faucet. Eventually it gets so heavy it pulls away and starts to fall. As it falls, less and less of the water in the drop is hanging on to the water in the faucet, causing the pinched off teardrop shape artists like so much. Below is a picture showing how the teardrop forms. As the water falls, it will assume a more circular shape.

A teardrop falling

Thanks for your question!


(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-up on this answer.