An enormous rain drop

What if a rainstorm dropped all of its water in a single giant drop?

We’ll imagine our storm measures 100 kilometers on each side and has a high total precipitable water (TPW) content of 6 centimeters. This means the water in our rainstorm would have a volume of:


That water would weigh 600 million tons (which happens to be about the current weight of our species). Normally, a portion of this water would fall, scattered, as rain—at most, 6 centimeters of it.

In this storm, all that water instead condenses into one giant drop, a sphere of water over a kilometer in diameter.

The water would hit the ground moving at over 200 m/s (450 mph). Right under the point of impact, the air is unable to rush out of the way fast enough, and the compression heats it so quickly that the grass would catch fire if it had time.

Fortunately for the grass, this heat lasts only a few milliseconds because it’s doused by the arrival of a lot of cold water. Unfortunately for the grass, the cold water is moving at over half the speed of sound.

The wall of water expands outward kilometer by kilometer, ripping up trees, houses, and topsoil as it goes. The house, porch, and old-timers are obliterated in an instant. Everything within a few kilometers is completely destroyed, leaving a pool of mud down to bedrock. The splash continues outward, demolishing all structures out to distances of 20 or 30 kilometers. At this distance, areas shielded by mountains or ridges are protected, and the flood begins to flow along natural valleys and waterways.

Learn more here.


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