What is rain that never reaches the ground called?

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Dear Tom,
What is rain that never reaches the ground called? We see this a lot in Arizona.
—Gerard Mann
Dear Gerard,
Precipitation that never reaches the ground is called virga. With humidities generally lower in Arizona, the Southwest in general, the mountainous West and western Great Plains, the bases of t-storms there are higher than in the rest of the country. This makes these regions especially good places to observe the evapo- rating streaks of rain and/or ice crystals that comprise virga, since they are best able to evaporate in the dry subcloud air there. These streaks can take on a hook- like appearance—vertical at the top but more horizon- tally oriented closer to the ground. The descending raindrops grow smaller through evaporation as they fall and their rate of fall slows.

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