Why can it rain on one house but the house next door is rain-free?

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Dear Tom,
Why can it rain on one house but the house next door is rain-free? I live in Florida for a portion of the year and I’ve seen this happen.


Marcie Wellburn,
Chicago and south Florida


Dear Marcie,
Two-thirds of Earth’s precipitation falls in tropical regions. Yet, nowhere do rains fall in a more varied manner, frequently from very small weather systems or even from individual clouds. It can happen here in Chicago (though very rarely), but Florida receives much of its rainfall this way and periodically witnesses the sort of small scale rain event that you’ve described. Moist air, the kind that Florida often experiences, requires minimal cooling to produce condensation — the kind easily induced by a single thermal and capable of raining on a single house but not on an adjacent house, or on just one side of a street.

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