PerspectiveAtmospheric Science

Frictional Dissipation—Blame It on the Rain

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Science  24 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6071, pp. 925-926
DOI: 10.1126/science.1219015

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Frictional dissipation in a turbulent flow occurs when kinetic energy is transferred to smaller and smaller scales until it is eventually removed by molecular diffusion. In addition to this turbulent dissipation, kinetic energy in Earth's atmosphere is also removed in the shear zones surrounding falling raindrops and ice particles. On page 953 of this issue, Pauluis and Dias (1) provide the first observational estimate of the precipitation-induced dissipation and show that its magnitude is comparable to that of turbulent dissipation in air.