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The Physics of Falling Raindrops in Diverse Planetary Atmospheres

Presentation #305.01 in the session “Exoplanets and Systems: Terrestrial Planets”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
The Physics of Falling Raindrops in Diverse Planetary Atmospheres

The evolution of a single raindrop falling below a cloud is governed by fluid dynamics and thermodynamics fundamentally transferable to planetary atmospheres beyond modern Earth's. Here, we show how three properties that characterize the raindrops (raindrop shape, terminal velocity, and evaporation rate) can be calculated as a function of raindrop size in any planetary atmosphere. We demonstrate that these simple, interrelated characteristics tightly bound the possible size range of raindrops in a given atmosphere, independently of poorly understood growth mechanisms. Starting from the equations governing raindrop falling and evaporation, we demonstrate that raindrop ability to vertically transport latent heat and condensible mass can be well captured by a new dimensionless number, which should facilitate improved representations of rainfall in complex climate models in the future. Our results have implications for precipitation efficiency, convective storm dynamics, and rainfall rates, which are properties of interest for understanding planetary radiative balance and (in the case of terrestrial planets) rainfall-driven surface erosion.

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