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Definition Of "showers"

Thundery wintry showers


This is a slightly controversial topic that used to be referenced quite frequently by Philip Eden- how does one define "showers"? The dictionary typically tells us that a shower is a brief fall of precipitation, whereas most meteorologists use the term "shower" to refer to convective precipitation.

I don't agree with Philip Eden's assertion that a shower should be termed a brief fall of light rain and that a brief, torrential fall is a "cloudburst" (it has to be said, I rarely disagree with what he says, but this is one such occasion). Think about it, most non-weather definitions of "shower" (e.g. taking a shower, being showered with gifts) involves short, sharp outbreaks, so I don't see why a cloudburst can't reasonably be called a heavy shower. However, I do agree with his point that to most of the "lay" public, the type of cloud that the precipitation falls from is not really relevant, and if a frontal system breaks up to give brief falls of precipitation, to most people, they would constitute "showers".

In my view, though, when talking about showery weather on a large scale (such as when making a forecast) the distinction based on convective vs non-convective precipitation makes a lot of sense, because it is very rare for brief falls of precipitation to occur on a wide scale without them being at least partly convective in origin- plus it is much easier for forecasters to differentiate convective vs non convective precipitation than to differentiate prolonged vs short-lived precipitation (in addition to the fact that the two are strongly correlated anyway). It wouldn't surprise me if this was the main reason why "showers" as referring to convective precipitation came into widespread use.

Another part of confusion concerns the definition of my favourite weather type, which . In the old days, it was sunshine mixed with brief falls of precipitation. These days my favourite weather type is rather more specific- sunshine mixed with [i]convective[/i] precipitation.


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