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John Wheeler: When is rain a shower?

For those of us in the business of forecasting, a shower differs from rain by being convective in nature.

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FARGO โ€” Sometimes rain is called "rain" and sometimes it is referred to as a "shower." The classic meteorological definition is that a shower is brief and/or intermittent whereas rain is steady. However, there is no specific time limit for when a shower crosses the threshold and becomes just rain. For those of us in the business of forecasting, a shower differs from rain by being convective in nature.

This means that showers are caused by smaller scale updrafts of air and are briefer or more intermittent than a general area of rain which is caused by a general, gradual rising motion over a large area. Here again, however, there is no cutoff at which rising air is of too large of a scale to be considered a shower-making updraft. In general, if it is brief, short, or longer but highly variable in intensity, it is a shower. If it is of relatively long duration and generally steady intensity, it is rain.

John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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