A Single Drop

April 1, 2017
By , Harleysville, PA

I am mesmerized by storms. If I sense one is brewing, I chase it. I stare at the sky and at the clouds in pursuit of finding any hint of rain. I spend hours admiring the clouds. I spend hours watching them float through the atmosphere. I spend hours observing the trees sway and the leaves roll through the yard. I spend hours listening to the wind yell, and gaze as it pushes over chairs and throws trampolines. I spend hours collectively piecing together every aspect of a storm.

Growing up, my most cherished seasons were spring and summer. Not necessarily for the temperatures, but for the storms. I have invariably been intrigued with the weather; regularly staring up at the sky, amusing myself with the rain, senselessly searching for a single strike of lightning.

When I was eight, I was in my basement when I heard it. The TV started to beep wildly and the red strip dashed across the bottom of the screen. A storm warning. I scampered up the stairs and sprinted to my mom. I begged and pleaded to go outside and watch the beast in the sky unleash. Generally, my wish was granted, for my mom shared my peculiar curiosity for storms. We perched on our patio and watched the Earth let go of its anger and rage. I longed to know what caused the sky to become distressed.

I have a keenness for being in a car during a rainstorm. When I was younger, all it was to me was an amusing game to watch the droplets race each other down the window. It wasn’t until recently that I began to think the droplets were not playing a game, but trying to dodge our eyes. The droplets were falling. They wanted to be alone to hide from the deep stares and questions. The raindrops did not want to pull us down with them, they wanted to escape on their own without being seen. They did not want to dull the happiness of others, so they run in an attempt to avoid our eyes.

Storms are formed from atmospheric disturbances that are created by the heating and movement of air. When hot and cold come together, it starts a fight between the two fronts. Sometimes it is just an argument, and sometimes it is a spinning wrestling match that will eradicate everything in its path. The strongest ally in the brawl is water itself. The Earth’s surface is covered by seventy-one percent water making it the obvious first pick for teams. It is even capable of shapeshifting into different forms to exhibit the qualities most needed in the fight. Water, ice, and vapor all show their own strengths in varying situations. Sometimes, the best strength is letting everything flow out in the form of water. Sometimes, the best strength is fighting hard in the form of ice. Sometimes, the best strength is hiding in the form of vapor.

When water heats, it is forced to evaporate. As the water vapor gets transported up by air currents, the cooler temperatures at higher elevations condense the vapor into clouds. Whether we are aware or not, water is in the air, even on a cloudless day. Water droplets are simply too miniscule to be seen, almost as if they are attempting to stay elusive to the non-investigative eye. Then the invisible water vapor combines with particles to form cloud droplets, which grow and develop into the form of water we can see- clouds. (Perlman).

Within the clouds, coalescence takes place. Coalescence is the process of which two or more droplets merge during contact to form one. When the droplets build in weight and size, it enables the clouds to release precipitation into the air; however, not all clouds precipitate.

I recall learning about different clouds. It must have been elementary school. We studied the different types of clouds and conducted experiments with evaporation. School was compelling back then; they taught us about the endless struggle within the composition of an element. The cloud unit was by far one of the most memorable. We spent classes sitting upon the window panes, stretching our necks trying to identify the different forms of clouds in the sky- getting lost in the endless thought bubbles of the atmosphere. I learned that each cloud is unique, coming in contrasting sizes, shapes, and heights- just like people.

There are three basic categories of clouds: cirrus, stratus, and cumulus. Cirrus clouds do not produce precipitation. This type of cloud is found high up in the sky on a sunny day, often in a thin curly shape. Stratus clouds produce a light rain or snow. This type of cloud is formed closest to Earth, often seen as a giant blanket. These clouds form at the edge of a warm front where moist air is forced over the cold air. Cumulus clouds are the ones behind heavy precipitation. They can be found either high or low in a large clumpy shape. The lower the cloud hangs, the greater the chance of rain. On top of these basic cloud types, there are two more which are known for their storms. A nimbostratus cloud brings massive amounts of precipitation that can last for hours. A cumulonimbus, or thunderhead cloud, is responsible for thunderstorms. (Society).

Storm clouds are the most animate and exciting of all. Cumulonimbus clouds are formed by an uplift of hot air. The energy that is being forced inside of them unleashes itself through torrential downpours, hail, damaging winds, lightning, and tornadoes (Thunderstorm FAQ). A thunderstorm is often known for the clapping thunder roaring through the air with a big, loud, boom, combined with lightning lighting up the sky like a Fourth of July firework display.

Storms that begin in either storm cloud are capable of evolving into something more. The largest and most dangerous of such is a hurricane. Hurricanes form in the ocean around the equator. As they move across open bodies of water they are able to increase wind speeds and grow to dangerous levels. A hurricane has its own scaling system known as the Saffir-Simpson wind scale. This scale is based off of five different categories that sorts them by their wind speeds. A category one hurricane is when the winds are sustained at seventy-four to ninety-five miles per hour; a category five hurricane is anything that increases past one-hundred-seventy-five miles per hour. A hurricane is capable of catastrophic damage but it increases its intensity gradually until it climaxes, where all of the piled up emotions have erupted upon the unknown below (Saffir-Simpson). Then as a hurricane approaches the land it slows. The intensity lessens and once it falls upon the stability beneath the wicked spirals it rapidly drops categories until it is nothing but another storm. When there is something, or someone, to lean on, desolation can be eased purely by support.

The “calm after the storm” is not just another expression. After howling winds and walls of water rip through a town, time seems to stop. The rain subsides and all is so quiet and peaceful. The sky goes back to being blue with cirrus clouds travelling across yet again. However, the destruction that a storm leaves behind still exists and the damage is irreversible. A storm's effect on lives and geography is unpredictable. No two storms are exactly the same, and no one knows for sure what the behavior of one will be, other than the storm itself.

The storm is in charge. Weather is not something that humans have jurisdiction over, just as the emotions of others cannot be determined by any other person. Storms are something bigger than all of us, something that we do not fully comprehend. A cloud exists inside every individual producing a variety of storms within us all. A storm will not subside until it has run its course, and storms are inevitable. There is a constant cycle of building up to a storm; first something goes askew which draws in the moisture, and then once it accumulates, it starts to rain. Sometimes the clouds get overwhelmed and need to create space to prepare for the next fight, and sometimes there are no storm warnings. When the next battle is ready to begin, water vapor will yet again begin to collect in the nimbostratus clouds, where the water will seek relief by streaming out of the eyes, and down the cheeks of a disturbed atmosphere.

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